The Biden administration has called for a waiver of patent protection for coronavirus vaccines.
India and South Africa had called for a temporary waiver of IP protections on coronavirus vaccines to help expand the production and make it more affordable to developing countries. But the move was strongly opposed by many western countries and the pharma lobby. They reasoned that such a thing would stifle innovation and compromise the quality of medicines. As India, the second-most populous country globally, is battling a severe second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of IP rights has gained more importance. India and many other countries have been facing an acute shortage of vaccines. The deadlock between the proponents of waiver and influential pharmaceutical industries has been going on for months.
The World Trade Organization has been holding talks with many countries to seal an agreement. Biden's administration has been facing pressure from Democratic members and some progressive lawmakers to support the waiver.
As WTO is planning to take up the issue this month, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the U.S. would support the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines. However, she cautioned that there would not be any immediate effect on global supply, and it may take a long time before a consensus is reached. Biden, too had supported the measure during his election campaign.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.