The Biden administration said Wednesday that it would support waiving patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines after weeks of pressure from the international community as cases surge in India and other countries.
“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts — working with the private sector and all possible partners — to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines,” Tai said.
The move comes in response to a World Trade Organization proposal led by India and South Africa to suspend some provisions of an international trade agreement in a bid to boost vaccine manufacturing and access, especially in lower- and middle-income countries. But it remains unclear how quickly production could increase, as patents are only one constraint in a complex global supply chain. The pharmaceutical industry responded quickly, staying that drug manufacturers are already working with governments and non-profit bodies to provide access to vaccines.
“This change in longstanding American policy will not save lives. It also flies in the face of President Biden’s stated policy of building up American infrastructure and creating jobs by handing over American innovations to countries looking to undermine our leadership in biomedical discovery,” Steve Ubl, president and CEO of the trade group PhRMA said in a statement. “This decision does nothing to address the real challenges to getting more shots in arms, including last-mile distribution and limited availability of raw materials.”
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ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
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