The US is struggling to produce enough Covid-19 vaccine for its domestic use and export. However, President Biden has announced that his Administration will support the waiver of the intellectual property protections.
Although his Administration believes in intellectual property protections, “this is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures”. The statement continues to say that “in service of ending this pandemic, they support the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines“.
Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representatives, continued to add in the statement that “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”.
This announcement was positively received by the World Health Organization. Its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, applauded this decision and considered it a “monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19”. He continued to say that this is a reflection of the “moral leadership” of Biden’s Administration in the fight of Covid-19 and to end global challenges.
However, this news wasn’t received well by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which includes vaccine makers such as AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.
The group’s president and CEO, Stephen J, said, “In the midst of a deadly pandemic, the Biden Administration has taken an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety.” His statement continued to say that “this decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”
The World Trade Organization leaders encouraged its member nations to temporarily ease the rules protecting intellectual property in support of the waiver that was proposed by India and South Africa. This will revamp vaccine production in developing countries.
However, the discussion over this waiver is not automatic and may take time because the body will rule based on the census, which should be reached by all the 164 members.
India is one of the countries struggling to contain coronavirus infections. The countries cumulative total has touched 20.6 million cases, an increase caused by its highly contagious Covid variant, B.1.617.
Since what is happening in India can spread to other countries, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi supported the relaxation of patent protections on Covid-19 vaccines. This will grant governments easy and affordable access to these lifesaving doses.
Critics, on the other hand, suggest that such agreements may harm vaccines producing companies’ incentives to be innovative in future pandemics.