The United States will support waiving the intellectual property rights of the pharmaceutical companies that produced COVID-19 vaccines in hopes of increasing the world’s vaccine supply.
The US will support waiving the intellectual property (IP) rights on the vaccines due to “the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic,” United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a press release. The United States cannot unilaterally waive the IP rights, but will have to negotiate with other members of the World Trade Organization to do so.
These extraordinary times and circumstances of call for extraordinary measures.
— Ambassador Katherine Tai (@AmbassadorTai) May 5, 2021
“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. 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 given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.” (RELATED: Biden Promises COVID Aid To India As Virus Ravages Country)
Revoking IP rights for the COVID-19 vaccines is not a consensus position within the Biden administration. Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed concern that an attempt to waive IP rights could create a drawn-out legal dispute. “There are other ways to ramp up vaccine production around the world,” he said.
“Going back and forth, consuming time and lawyers in a legal argument about waivers — that is not the endgame,” Fauci added.
Congressional Republicans have already promised to oppose any attempt to weaken the IP rights of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers. Doing so would “undermine the very innovation that has led to the record-breaking rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, and it would not meaningfully improve vaccine availability,” Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and 11 other Republicans wrote in a May 4 letter to Tai.