US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has confirmed that the US will support the waiver of Intellectual Property rights protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic. “We’ll actively participate in WTO negotiations to make that happen,” she added.
The US supports the waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we’ll actively participate in WTO negotiations to make that happen: US Trade Representative Katherine Tai— ANI (@ANI) May 5, 2021
Tai’s statement included, “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 further stated, ” 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.”
Many US lawmakers have praised the move.
It is notable here that a US embargo was until recently preventing the export of critical vaccine raw material to India for the manufacture of Covid vaccines needed by SII and Bharat Biotech. After SII chief Adar Poonawalla’s multiple requests and constant persuasion by the Indian government, the US had recently agreed to make the raw materials available.
India and South Africa had raised the demand for TRIPs waiver at the WTO months back
The decision comes after India and South Africa in an official communication to the WTO on October 2, 2020, had called for TRIPS waiver of certain intellectual property provisions of COVID-19 vaccines. The request was to enable access to life-saving vaccines and therapeutics as soon as possible making them accessible for people in developing countries.
The WHO, vaccine manufacturers, including Adar Poonawalla, the chief of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company, and many other organisations have been calling for the developed nations to allow a TRIPs waiver so that the developing world can be provided access to vaccination and medicines needed to fight the pandemic.
Many international organisations, including Doctors Without Borders, have called upon the developed nations to stop wasting time in discussions and bring a change soon. Recently, diplomats of India and South Africa have stated that they are working to make another attempt to push developed nations to support the original proposal submitted by them at the WTO for TRIPs waiver on critical Covid vaccines and medicines for the benefit of developing nations.
Even as recently as March, a proposal by India and South Africa at the WTO for TRIPs waiver for Covid vaccines and medicines was blocked by the US, EU and the United Kingdom, among other nations. Even on April 15, at a virtual meet, Tai had remained non-committed over the proposal by India and South Africa.
US lawmakers come together for #FreeTheVaccine campaign
Additionally, over a 100 US lawmakers have written to President Joe Biden urging him to support India’s proposal to the WTO to temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers initiating the #FreeTheVaccine campaign. If the barriers are lifted, it will allow India and other developing countries to locally manufacture COVID-19 diagnostics and vaccines.
The Senators in the letter endorsed the temporary lifting of restrictions of intellectual property barriers and observed that the waiver is being supported by more than a 100 nations.
The lawmakers emphasized that the globalised economy cannot recover if only parts of the world are vaccinated.