By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will continue to push for a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, even as it and other wealthy Group of Seven nations dramatically expand vaccine donations to poorer countries. .
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Thursday that the Biden administration was working on multiple fronts to end the pandemic.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures,” Tai told a virtual town hall for union members organized by the trade federation AFL-CIO.
That effort included donations of 80 million doses of vaccines by the end of June, additional donations of 500 million doses announced Thursday by President Joe Biden, and negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to secure a limited exemption from intellectual property. (PI). rights to vaccines, he said.
“And this may take time, given the complexity of the issues involved, but our goal remains to get vaccines to reach as many people as quickly as possible,” Tai said, adding that the pandemic will not end until it is over. contained everywhere.
Biden’s plan to donate an additional 500 million doses, a key element in the G7’s plan for a billion donations, raised some questions about whether Washington could drop its support for an intellectual property exemption at the WTO.
Germany, Britain and some other US allies oppose the waiver, as well as the American business community.
But Biden administration officials say the exemption will help boost global production of coronavirus vaccines.
Biden said Thursday that the crisis, like the previous AIDS epidemic, demands a global response and that failure to stop the pandemic would slow global growth and could increase instability in some countries.
“We are going to keep manufacturing doses, donating doses, taking ‘hits’, as they say here in the UK, in arms, until the world has defeated this virus,” he said.
Sean Flynn, an intellectual property expert at American University Washington, said he expects the WTO to reach an agreement on a waiver during a ministerial meeting later this year.
He welcomed America’s “ideological flexibility” in pursuing both a waiver and taking steps to boost vaccine donations, and said the new mutations in the virus underscored the need for more than a few players to produce vaccines. in rich countries.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday that about two dozen low-income countries had only vaccinated 1% of their population. “America is better off in a richer, more vaccinated world than a poorer, unvaccinated one,” he said.
The pharmaceutical industry contends that the companies invested their own funds to develop vaccines and giving up their intellectual property rights will undermine that work in the future.
Robert Grant, senior director of international affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Global Innovation Policy, said “there is no evidence” that the waiver of intellectual property rights drives vaccine production.
“The concern is that countries around the world will just start saying, ‘Well, we’re not going to implement or enforce intellectual property laws,'” he said, adding that the result would be a chaotic patchwork of laws that “would undermine the justification for News Block in these places over the years. ”