On Day 105, Biden reversed the U.S. position on a waiver of the TRIPS agreement—which would give up intellectual property protections in exchange for possible vaccine gains in developing countries.
Biden Supports Waiver of Vaccine IP Protections.
In a statement from Ambassador Katherine Tai on Wednesday, the Biden administration came out in support of a waiver of patents and intellectual property (IP) protections for coronavirus vaccines.
The announcement was met with approval from the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who called it “a monumental moment in the fight against #COVID19.”
A waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) was initially proposed by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020 and was opposed by the United States and other member nations.
This is a monumental moment in the fight against #COVID19. The commitment by @POTUS Joe Biden & @USTradeRep @AmbassadorTai to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of 🇺🇸 leadership to address global health challenges. pic.twitter.com/3iBt3jfdEr
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 5, 2021
Proponents of the waiver argue it would help developing countries to produce vaccines independently, but pharmaceutical companies working on vaccines fiercely opposed the move.
“In the midst of a deadly pandemic, the Biden Administration has taken an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety,” said Stephen J. Ubi, president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which includes AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. “This decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”
Democratic lawmakers have mounted pressure on the Biden administration to support the waiver, maintaining that it is anti-humanitarian and anti-diplomatic to withhold access to vaccines. Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee submitted a letter to Tai arguing that IP rights are not the main issue, and an overly broad waiver would undermine the innovation that made a vaccine possible in the first place.
“The justification for the waiver rests on an incorrect assumption that IP rights are a significant bottleneck to the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The waiver’s sponsors have presented no convincing evidence to support this assertion,” members wrote.
Negotiations on such a waiver could take significant time and would require the approval of all WTO member countries. As of May 6, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom had not yet supported the waiver.
PPP Runs Out, New Restaurant Fund Kicks In.
One day earlier, the Small Business Administration announced that the Payment Protection Program (PPP) had run out of money four weeks earlier than expected. Although Congress had voted to extend the program through May 31, it did not appropriate additional funds. The new, targeted fund is much smaller than PPP, and more than 186,000 restaurants have already filed applications.