(Washington Post)- The Biden administration on Wednesday threw its support behind a controversial proposal to waive intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, with liberals framing it as a necessary bid to speed the shots to billions in the developing world, while the drug industry warned of devastating effects to vaccine production.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the United States will now move forward with international discussions to waive the protections for the duration of the pandemic. U.S. officials helped block a World Trade Organization proposal that was introduced last year to stop enforcing patents for coronavirus-related medical products. Dozens of developing countries have pushed for the proposal, arguing that it would allow them to rapidly produce their own generic vaccines, rather than wait months or years for sufficient doses.
“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,” Tai said in a statement.
The decision to go forward with the waiver after weeks of internal deliberations was finalized at a White House meeting on Tuesday with President Biden, said senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the deliberations. Staff at the meeting included Tai, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, and Bruce Reed, deputy chief of staff for policy, all of whom supported the decision.