President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his administration’s support for a global waiver on patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines. The terms will be negotiated with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in due course.

While intellectual property rights for businesses are important, Washington “supports waiving these protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” US 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,” she added.

Biden had been under heavy pressure from world leaders to agree to forgo protections for vaccine makers in order to increase production and spread the injections to more countries, with rich countries sweeping the majority of doses.

Tai said the United States would participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organization, but warned that the talks “will take time given the consensual nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues at stake.”

The global trade body has faced calls from India and South Africa for months to temporarily remove intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines, in a move that supporters say would help spur production in developing countries which have so far received much less blows.

But this notion has so far met fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, who insist that patents are not the main impediments to increased production and warn that this decision could hamper innovation.

WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has pushed for an international agreement to provide at least one temporary patent waiver.

“We need to have a sense of urgency on how we approach this question of the response to COVID-19 because the world is watching,” she said earlier Wednesday, describing equitable access to tools to fight against the pandemic as “the moral and economic question of our time.”

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This notice was published: 2021-05-05 20:36:04


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