Thu, 17 Jun 2021

Biden to waive Covid vaccine patents for poor countries

Robert Besser
09 May 2021, 03:35 GMT+10

WASHINGTON D.C.: Shares of Covid vaccine manufacturers fell following statements from the White House that they support waiving patent rights for vaccines.

This is seen as a nod to Democratic lawmakers and some 100 countries who have asked for the Covid vaccine formulas.

In a speech, President Joe Biden said he supports a temporary waiver of patent rights held by vaccine manufacturers. This was followed up by a statement from chief trade negotiator Katherine Tai, who said, "This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures."

Shares of the largest vaccine makers, Moderna and Pfizer, fell in response.

Biden's statement won immediate praise from World Health Organization officials. The pharmaceutical companies were advised of the decision prior to Biden's statement.

However, the largest pharmaceutical industry lobbying group warned that Biden's suspending patent rights would undermine the companies' response to the pandemic and compromise safety.

Biden faced pressure to suspend patent rights held by pharmaceutical companies, following deadly surges in the spread of the Covid infection in India, as the outbreak is now spreading to Indian neighbors Nepal, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere.

Tai noted that waiving the patents would take time, as the World Trade Organization would need to come to a consensus among its 164 members.

The U.S. government-funded billions of dollars of research and advance purchases for COVID-19 vaccines last year, as the inoculations were being developed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the patent waiver "amounts to the expropriation of the property of the pharmaceutical companies, whose innovation and financial investments made the development of COVID-19 vaccines possible in the first place."

But those in favor of the waiver said the waiver would be temporary - and the pharmaceutical companies will later be able to sell follow-on shots, which might be required for years to come.

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