US will waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines

President Joe Biden's administration will waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced May 5.

Activists and lawmakers had been pressuring the administration to waive COVID-19 patent protection in recent weeks, saying the decision to do so would help expedite global vaccine production as the pandemic continues to rage in India and South America.

"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," Ms. Tai said.

Ms. Tai said the U.S. would actively participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organization over the matter, saying the negotiations "will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved."  

PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s largest trade group, issued a statement May 5 saying the administration's decision "will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines."

"This decision does nothing to address the real challenges to getting more shots in arms, including last-mile distribution and limited availability of raw materials," PhRMA President and CEO Stephen Ubl said. "These are the real challenges we face that this empty promise ignores."


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