US Backs Waiver of Patent Protection for Vaccines

President Joe Biden’s administration has officially announced its support for waiving protections on intellectual property when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to help developing nations make doses, CNBC reports.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement: “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. 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.”

She added: “The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. 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.”

The World Trade Organization this week reportedly called on nations to waive their patent protections in a proposal ahead of meetings between ambassadors on Wednesday and Thursday.

“This is a start,” Yale University epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, an AIDS activist who was pushing for the waiver, told The New York Times. “We need the writing of the text of this waiver now to be transparent and public, but as we have always said we need tech transfer now.”

The move has its critics.

It’s “a huge misstep by the Biden administration that will do nothing to increase vaccine distribution and will endorse China’s ability to piggyback on U.S. innovation to further its vaccine diplomacy aims,” Clete Willems, a former attorney at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative during both the Trump and Obama administrations, told CNBC.

“A solution more in line with the Administration’s stated objectives of improving U.S. competitiveness and keeping jobs in America would be to produce and export vaccines from the United States,” Willems added.

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