The United States has thrown its support behind waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization.
The Biden-Harris Administration policy was announced May 5 by U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai. “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she wrote in a statement. “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.”
In her statement, Ambassador Tai said the United States “will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization…Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”
Many developing countries have little access to COVID-19 vaccines and have struggled to respond to spikes in COVID-19 among their citizens. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the U.S. decision, calling it a “monumental moment” and “a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges.”
Ambassador Tai said, “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.”