Biden administration supports waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines – a big step in making vaccines more accessible to developing nations

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Protesters picket outside Johnson & Johnson Offices during the Global Day Of Action For A People’s Vaccine on March 11, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa.

  • The Biden administration will support waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • US Trade Representative Katherine Tai made the announcement on Wednesday.
  • The aim “is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible,” Tai said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it supports waiving intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines, saying “extraordinary circumstances” call for “extraordinary measures.”

The move, sought by developing nations, would allow other countries to manufacture vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna without fear of sanctions at the World Trade Organization.

President Joe Biden had pledged during the 2020 campaign that he would not allow patents to stand in the way of other countries manufacturing their own vaccines. Congressional Democrats, as well as former world leaders, had lobbied him to keep that promise.

“The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement, “but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.”

Tai said the Biden administration would argue for that policy at the WTO. It had previously joined with the European Union in resisting the call. Pharmaceutical trade groups have argued that waiving IP rights would stymie innovation.

Support for a waiver comes as India, a producer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, is experiencing its worst wave yet of COVID-19, accounting for nearly half of the world’s new cases and a quarter of its deaths.

Tai said the Biden administration will also work “to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution,” as well as address one of the biggest bottlenecks: “the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”

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