President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, bowing to mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries, but angering pharmaceutical companies.
Reporter: "President Biden, are you going to back a waiver at the WTO?
Are you going to back that?
Is the U.S. government going to back that?" "Yes - I'm going to talk about that later today, yes..." Bowing to pressure from fellow democrats and 100 other countries, President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind a proposed World Trade Organization waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
...A potentially major shift in the pandemic fight which would boost the global vaccine supply but anger the powerful U.S. pharmaceutical industry.
In a tweet, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called it "a monumental moment in the fight against #COVID19" and "a powerful example of [American] leadership to address global health challenges." Stocks for vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna, BioNtech and Novavax fell on the news.
The United States and several other countries had previously blocked negotiations at the WTO about the waiver proposal led by India and South Africa aimed at helping developing countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines using the IP of pharmaceutical companies.
But Biden had been facing calls to change course as the COVID crisis grows more dire in certain hot spots - especially in India.
Biden's chief trade negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the proposed measure would temporarily waive certain patent rights to help countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a global health crisis," Tai wrote, "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." Because WTO decisions require a consensus of all members, Tai cautioned negotiations would take time.