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While Biden says no decision yet, House Republicans oppose COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver

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By Reena Bhardwaj

Washington | May 5, 2021 5:14:06 AM IST
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) said he has not yet announced whether his administration will support a global push to waive intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines.

"We are going to decide that as we go along. I haven't made that decision yet," the President told reporters here following a White House briefing on vaccine distribution while providing an update on goals for returning to pre-pandemic life.

The Biden administration is facing pressure from the international community, drug pricing advocates and congressional Democrats to back a move that would waive an international intellectual property agreement that protects pharmaceutical trade secrets.

On Tuesday before Biden's address, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee urged the U.S. trade representative to continue opposing a waiver to loosen patent and intellectual property protections on coronavirus vaccines.

In a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, the Republicans said the waiver would do "little to improve public health."

"The requested waiver is extraordinarily broad and unnecessary to accomplish the goal of giving as many people as possible access to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, including in developing countries," the Republicans wrote.

"Rather, the waiver would undermine the very innovation that has led to the record-breaking rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines already saving lives around the world, and it would not meaningfully improve vaccine availability."

The lawmakers said the international community should instead focus on overcoming "the real obstacles faced by developing countries in accessing vaccines and treatments, which does not require waiving intellectual property (IP) rights."

The waiver proposal is being spearheaded by India and South Africa, which argue it would enable lower-income countries to manufacture the vaccines themselves, especially in light of the record-breaking wave of COVID-19 infections in India.

The World Trade Organization will assess whether to temporarily waive the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement, which has effectively provided pharmaceutical companies monopoly control over vaccine production, potentially locking out poor countries from expanding their supplies.

The Biden administration is expected to set its position clearly at the World Trade Organization meeting on Wednesday. (ANI)

 
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