New Delhi (NVI) : Months after India approached the World Trade Organisation (WTO), hopes have been raised regarding its proposal for temporarily suspending the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) on Covid-19 vaccines, with the US supporting such a measure in view of the “extraordinary circumstances” globally.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in a statement, announced that the Biden-Harris Administration supports waiving the intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. 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.
“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 added.
“The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts – working with the private sector and all possible partners – to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines,” the US Trade Representative said.
The announcement assumes significance in the context of India which had filed for temporary suspension of IPRs on all the Covid related technologies about 8 months back. India had said that the IPR could come in the way to access medicines, vaccines and devices which are being developed to tackle Covid-19. South Africa too had filed such a proposal with the world body.
The council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) discussed the issue in December last year but was not able to reach a consensus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been advocating for such a suspension, saying it would help make Covid treatment and tests affordable and available.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the announcement by the US, terming it as a “historic decision” towards ending the pandemic as quickly as possible.
“The White House’s support for the temporary waiving of intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccines reflects the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States to work to end this pandemic. But I am not surprised by this announcement. This is what I expected from the Administration of President Biden,” he said.
“This is a monumental moment in the fight against COVID-19. The commitment by the President of the United States Joe Biden and Ambassador Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges,” said Dr Tedros.
“I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let’s all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.”