The administration of United States President Joe Biden announced on May 5 that it supports waiving the intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.
“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,” Tai added.
The move could potentially expand the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines and narrow the gap between rich and poor countries.
“The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible,” Tai stated.
“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 added.
Officials said that the decision would not immediately lift the global patent rules and Tai noted that negotiations between members of the World Trade Organization “will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”
Pharmaceutical companies expressed their opposition at the move.
“A waiver is the simple but the wrong answer to what is a complex problem,” the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations said, describing the move as “disappointing.”
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President and Chief Executive Stephen Ubi stated that the decision would “further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”
Other countries, including the United Kingdom and those in the European Union, also opposed the move.
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