The Biden administration came out on Wednesday in support of waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, siding with international efforts to bolster production amid concerns about vaccine access in developing nations. President Biden had come under increasing pressure to throw his support behind the proposal, drafted by India and South Africa and backed by many congressional Democrats.
The United States had been a major holdout at the World Trade Organization over a proposal to suspend some of the world economic body’s intellectual property protections, which could allow drug-makers across the globe access to the closely guarded trade secrets of how the viable vaccines have been made.
Support from the White House is not a guarantee that a waiver will be adopted. The European Union has also been standing in the way, and changes to international intellectual property rules require unanimous agreement.
The United States would participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organization over the matter, but a US spokesman said that they would “take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”
Standing against this will be the pharmaceutical industry, which responded angrily to the extraordinary decision. Stephen J. Ubl, the president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, called the announcement “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety.”
[The New York Times]