Biden Administration to Back Lifting of COVID-19 Vaccine Patents

In COVID-19, Latest News
by Healthday

Global health activists note that patent holders must also share technical know-how and personnel

THURSDAY, May 6, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it will support a controversial proposal to waive patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

The United States had been a holdout at the World Trade Organization over the proposal, which could give drugmakers around the world a look at the trade secrets of how the viable COVID-19 vaccines have been made, The New York Times reported. But President Joe Biden has come under pressure to throw his support behind the proposal, the newspaper reported.

Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, announced the administration’s support for the proposal on Wednesday afternoon. “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she said in a statement. “The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines.” Tai added that the United States would participate in negotiations over the matter, but that those talks would “take time, given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

The announcement is only one step toward a potential international agreement on suspending intellectual property rights. Negotiating an agreement that satisfies all member countries will be challenging, and it is far from clear what would happen if such an agreement was reached, The Times said.

Global health activists noted that a waiver alone would not increase the world’s vaccine supply. It must be accompanied by a process known as “tech transfer,” in which patent holders supply technical know-how and personnel. “Handing needy countries a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards, and sizable work force needed will not help people waiting for the vaccine,” Michelle McMurry-Heath, M.D., president and chief executive of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, told The Times. “Handing them the blueprint to construct a kitchen that — in optimal conditions — can take a year to build will not help us stop the emergence of dangerous new COVID variants.”

The New York Times Article

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