(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration now says it supports waiving the intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, opening the door for their possible manufacturing by companies and countries around the world, beyond those that invented them.
It is a historic shift and one that advocates and aid groups say is critical for speeding up the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. had opposed the waivers, but in a statement Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tsai says the U.S. “will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization needed to make that happen.”
“The extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures… The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible,” Tsai said.
There has been concern among the pharmaceutical industry about the precedent this may set. But Tsai’s statement makes clear this is limited to the coronavirus — “in service of ending this pandemic,” she said.
Negotiations at the WTO are still underway, and it’s unclear what caveats or carveouts there may be for possible waivers.
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