The Biden administration on Wednesday announced that it supports waiving protections on intellectual property or patents for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines, a move that may not find favor with major US companies now leading research into vaccines for the virus.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Twitter that “extraordinary times and circumstances call for extraordinary measures” stating that the U.S. supports waivers on IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines “to help end the pandemic” and will participate in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations to facilitate waivers.
“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,” she said.
Tai continued that the goal of the Biden administration 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,” she said.
President Joe Biden affirmed the White House’s support of waiving IP protections and said he was “going to talk about that later today,” according to television reports.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the United States for the decision, which he called a “monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19.”
“I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let’s all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced life-saving Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.
Stocks of pharmaceutical companies involved in vaccine production declined following the announcement as Moderna dropped 6.19 percent, BioNTech fell 3.45 percent and Johnson & Johnson fell 0.42 percent. Pfizer stock closed the day flat, gaining 0.05 percent.
The announcement comes a day after Biden announced the US plans to have 70 percent of adults receive at least one vaccine dose and 160 million people fully vaccinated by July 4.