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Fighting Monopolies on COVID-19 Vaccines

In October 2020, India and South Africa, recognizing the unprecedented urgency of the fight against COVID-19, made a proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive the patents and other WTO-enforced intellectual property barriers that limit global production of COVID vaccines, tests and treatments.

The Trump administration opposed this “TRIPS Waiver,” named in reference to the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.

On May 5, 2021, the Biden administration made history in announcing it would support the waiver for vaccines. But for the next year, rich countries at the WTO, especially the European Union, United Kingdom, Switzerland and even the U.S., delayed negotiations and watered down the scope of the waiver.

In June 2022, rich countries and the WTO Secretariat forced through a hollowed-out version of the waiver -- a text that public health experts worldwide agreed was a total failure.

The many governments, public health organizations, and global justice advocates who supported the original, comprehensive waiver, will keep fighting our trade regime’s deadly prioritization of intellectual property over human lives.