Biden Administration Reverses Trump’s Self-Defeating Blockage of Temporary COVID-19 Waiver of WTO Intellectual Property Barriers

U.S. Joins 100-Plus WTO Countries Supporting Waiver, Calls for More Production of Vaccines Worldwide to End Extreme COVID-19 Vaccine Shortage

Contact: Matthew Groch, mgroch@citizen.org, (202) 454-5111
Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Biden administration announced it would support a temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) barriers to facilitate more production of COVID-19 vaccines and would enter into textual negotiations on a World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver proposal initiated by South Africa and India. The announcement comes after intensive U.S. and global campaigning. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, issued the following statement:

“Thank you, President Biden and USTR Katherine Tai, for prioritizing saving human lives and livelihoods and cutting through Big Pharma’s lies and threats to fight for the speediest possible end to the unprecedented threats posed to all Americans and people worldwide by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be critical that U.S. engagement in WTO negotiations leads to the fastest possible agreement on a waiver text that encompasses COVID-19 vaccines and diagnostic tests to prevent virus spread and treatments to save the lives of those engulfed in raging outbreaks around the world.

“By fighting for the rest of the world to have access to vaccines as we have in the U.S., the Biden administration is recognizing that ‘no one is safe until we are all vaccinated’ is more than a slogan, given COVID-19 outbreaks anyplace could hatch vaccine-resistant variants that sweep the world.

“As a candidate, Biden’s compassion and his understanding that Americans would not be safe unless the whole world was vaccinated was spotlighted when he pledged to ALS-diagnosed health activist Ady Barkin that he would ensure vaccines were shared worldwide to end the pandemic as quickly as possible and not allow IP barriers to thwart people’s right to access and today’s announcement is a critical step towards that goal. The fastest possible negotiations of a TRIPS waiver must also be accompanied by significant increases in funding and technology transfer to boost domestic and international vaccine production capacity so we can end this pandemic and prepare for the next.

“The optics of the U.S. and the few other wealthy countries with vaccines blocking 100 poorer countries without vaccines from even starting WTO negotiations on a temporary emergency waiver that is critical to boosting vaccine production was only made worse by China and Russia widely sharing their vaccines and technology worldwide. With an mRNA vaccine developed in China now in final trials, a Chinese firm already licensed to make the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines, and Latin American countries gearing up to make the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine, today’s announcement is a gamechanger.”

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