US to support Covid-19 vaccine patent waiver proposal

The United States has announced the support for waiving intellectual property (IP) protection for Covid-19 vaccines. The decision is a breakthrough in India and South Africa’s attempts to get World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries to agree to such a waiver to fight the pandemic equitably.  

On May 5, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai stated that the Biden-Harris administration has decided to announce the support. “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,” Tai said in a statement.

After the US support, European Union will be the only major trade bloc that continues to oppose the move at WTO. Tai has indicated the US administration will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the WTO needed to make that happen. “Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved,” the statement said.