On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden administration announced that it supported waiving patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines, calling the pandemic a global health crisis.
In a statement United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said: “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.”
India and South Africa had previously proposed that the World Trade Organization (WTO) suspend certain intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in an effort to ramp up production and distribute vaccines more widely. That effort, which started last October, was blocked by a small number of countries, including the US.
India and South Africa are making another effort for waivers at the WTO, and this time, the effort will have US support. Tai pledged that the US would actively negotiate at the WTO to make waivers happen.
Tai said: “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.”