US backs suspending patents for Covid-19 vaccines

Washington, May 5 (EFE).- The United States will support a proposal by more than 100 nations to temporarily waive patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines, President Joe Biden’s administration said Wednesday.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai 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,” she said.

Tai made the announcement a day after 110 Democrats in the House of Representatives sent a letter to Biden urging him to back the emergency waiver.

Groups representing the pharmaceutical industry and other sectors have argued against even a temporary waiver.

“We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved,” Tai said.

Last October, India and South Africa led dozens of developing nations in called for an emergency waiver of the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) rules.

Under then-President Donald Trump, the US joined the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the European Union to oppose the proposal for the TRIPS waiver.

WTO members are currently reviewing a new waiver initiative from India – now the global epicenter of the pandemic – and South Africa, though the exact text has been kept confidential in the interest of winning over the countries that vetoed the idea earlier.

Earlier Wednesday, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said that India and South Africa planned to “revise their proposal” with an eye toward laying the groundwork for securing agreement at a formal conference set for early next month.

“All parties have the same objective, which is to ramp up production and improve the efficiency and the equity of the distribution process,” Rockwell said. EFE


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