US joins call to waive COVID-19 vaccine patent protections

The Biden administration has officially backed calls to waive COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property protections for the sake of the public, saying the pandemic represents 'extraordinary circumstances' that require similarly extraordinary measures. Waiving the patent protections would boost production in developing countries.

The support was announced by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday, with the ambassador noting that while the Biden administration believes in intellectual property protections, it ultimately supports waiving them in this case 'in service of ending this pandemic.'

As part of its support, the US will participate in negotiations with the World Trade Organization to help facilitate the effort, according to Ambassador Tai. She notes that the planned negotiations, which will be text-based, will 'take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.'

The US Trade Representative went on to state:

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.

Though a handful of nations have drastically ramped up their vaccination efforts, many countries are struggling to acquire and distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, leading to major surges in the virus that pave the way for potential variants and related complications. The World Health Organization has praised the new support, calling it a 'monumental moment' in working to end the pandemic.