As developing countries try to get their citizens vaccinated, US President Joe Biden’s administration has stated its support for a global effort to waive rights for coronavirus vaccines. India, where the death toll has risen to a new daily high amid concerns that the worst is yet to come, has been at the forefront of the battle within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to encourage more drug manufacturers to produce vaccines, a step that pharma majors reject.
While intellectual property laws for companies are significant, United State Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that in order to end the outbreak, Washington “promotes the relaxation of those safeguards for Covid-19 vaccines.
Biden had been under a lot of pressure to waive vaccine manufacturer protections, particularly in light of allegations that richer nations were stockpiling vaccines. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the US resolution “significant” and said it represented “a huge event in the battle against COVID19. However, given the WTO’s general agreement existence, Tai warned that discussions “will take time.”
After securing suppliers for Americans, Biden’s government would seek to “enlarge vaccine production and distribution,” as well as “start increasing the raw materials required to manufacture those vaccines.”
For months, the WTO has been bombarded with requests to temporarily revoke intellectual property rights on coronavirus vaccines, a process known as a TRIPS waiver. TRIPS stands for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.
Pharmaceutical companies and their host countries, on the other hand, have vehemently opposed the idea, claiming that patents aren’t the biggest impediment to scaling up production and warning that the change could stifle innovation.
The Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations described the US move as “unsatisfactory,” saying that a waiver is “the easy but wrong solution to what is a complex issue.”
Countries like New Zealand, on the other hand, were pleased with the US statement, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling it “tremendous news” that would help his country produce mRNA vaccines locally. France, on the other hand, has stated that it opposes the waiver, preferring instead a donation-based model to assist developing countries in overcoming vaccine shortages.