Biden wants to waive Covid vaccine patents

Source: Politico | May 6, 2021 | Adam Cancryn and Sarah Owermohle

WAIVE THOSE PATENT PROTECTIONS GOODBYE — U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday that the White House backs the waiver of patent and other intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, in a surprise move that lays the groundwork for expanding production of the shots worldwide, POLITICO’s Doug Palmer reports.

The U.S. will still need to negotiate the terms of the waiver at the World Trade Organization, and it could take months to reach an agreement. But supporters of rolling back the patent protections hailed the U.S.’ stance as a precedent-setting blow to the pharmaceutical industry’s hold on Covid vaccines and a sign the White House is committed to leading the global vaccination effort.

“Today’s announcement is proof that as a nation, we care more about saving lives and helping poorer nations than we do about corporate greed and profits,” nine House Democrats who had earlier lobbied Biden officials for the waiver said in a statement.

Indeed, the move puts Biden sharply at odds with the drug industry, which warned that patent waivers could discourage companies from developing drugs to fight future pandemics. PhRMA called it “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response” — one that an industry source told PULSE was made more infuriating by the fact the administration didn’t give vaccine-makers a heads up about its decision.

“The men and women at these companies have been working night and day against the pandemic, and no one in this administration had the decency to tell them they were about to get screwed,” the source said.

Some prominent health officials, including Trump-era FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Luciana Borio, who was briefly considered to be Biden’s FDA chief, also voiced opposition.

Even Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, warned there would be little immediate impact in a POLITICO interview Wednesday, though he still approved suspending the patents.

Still, the waiver support makes good on one of Biden’s campaign pledges. And perhaps more significantly, it tracks with the administration’s insistence that nothing is off the table when it comes to what Fauci termed the U.S.’s “moral obligation” to end the pandemic worldwide.

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