In a statement issued by a US Trade representative, Katherine Tai announced the Government’s stand on waiving intellectual property rights to curb the spread of Covid-19. The decision aims to help countries produce more of these much-needed vaccines and decrease the momentum of Covid-19.
“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 in a statement.
The issue was also dealt with by the WTO Chairman in a meeting with the ambassadors from developing and developed nations who agree on providing rapid help to treat this deadly virus. Tai said that the decision would take a certain time to gain global consensus and it will not have an immediate effect on the supply of vaccines.
The temporary waiver on intellectual property was first proposed by India and South Africa last year to increase the production of covid vaccines. However, it met with strong opposition from developed nations like the European Union and the US.
The long-standing debate aims to lift patents, copyrights on confidential information, and industrial designs to deploy vaccines throughout the world at cheap rates. The goal is to lift the rules long enough to suppress the surge of coronavirus and beat the pandemic.
The decision is backed by most of the developing nations, human rights activists, and progressive lawmakers of the West. The recent surge in cases in countries like India, a key producer of vaccines and the second most populous countries has made the matter more critical and urgent.
“Unless we vaccinate the world, we leave the playing field open to more and more mutations, which could churn out variants that could evade our current vaccines and require booster shots to deal with them… We all have a self-interest in ensuring that everyone around the world, no matter where they live, has access to Covid-19 vaccines,” Gregg Gonsalves, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Yale University, said in an international report published this year.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that these waivers are essential to use at a time like this when the deadly virus has infected and killed millions and destroyed the global economy. He also highlighted that with respect to special WTO emergency provisions, countries should waive intellectual property rights to meet the demands of covid vaccines. “This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” said Tai in her statement.
The US President along with 110 members of Congress have supported the statement. However, the opponents believe that the production of covid vaccines is complex and insist that lifting rules on intellectual property could hamper future developments.