President Biden threw his support behind a World Trade Organization proposal on Wednesday to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, clearing a hurdle for other vaccine-strapped countries to manufacture their own vaccines even though the patents are privately held.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” United States 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.”
The pace of vaccinating against the coronavirus in the U.S. is slowing down. In some places, there are more vaccine doses than people who want them.
Meanwhile, India is now the epicenter of the pandemic, and just 2% of its population is fully vaccinated.
The World Trade Organization is considering a proposal to address that inequity as India, South Africa and more than 100 other nations advocate to waive IP rights for coronavirus vaccines and medications, which might let manufacturers in other poorer countries make their own.
The consequences of not passing the waiver are “staggering,” Mustaqeem de Gama, South Africa’s World Trade Organization counselor, told NPR — “not only on the level of the loss of human lives, but also on the economic level.”