Biden administration comes out in favor of patent waivers for COVID vaccines

President Joe Biden just made yet another controversial decision.

Last week, the Biden administration officially came out in favor of patent waivers for coronavirus vaccines, the Washington Examiner reported

Patent waivers

On Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced that the Biden administration supports patent waivers for COVID-19 vaccines.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” Tai said in a statement, according to CBS News.

Lifting the patent waivers means temporarily lifting intellectual property protections for the vaccines. Many argue this is a necessary measure to help developing countries vaccinate their population against the coronavirus by allowing the these countries to manufacture generic versions of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed in the United States.

The U.S. is reportedly set to have a surplus of vaccines, and many, including liberal members of Congress such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have been pushing Biden to help these developing countries obtain vaccines.

Not everyone is on board with the idea, however.

The opposition

As would have been expected, the pharmaceutical industry is not in favor of these patent waivers.

Critics of waivers say they will have a horrible effect on vaccine creation, arguing that it will produce a chilling effect on innovation because it will remove incentive. “[T]his decision will disadvantage patients by undermining existing incentives to develop vaccines and therapeutics for future pandemics,” said Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, CEO of the trade group Biotechnology Innovation Organization, according to the Examiner.

Furthermore, critics argue the patent waivers will not actually have the desired effect of helping developing countries to acquire vaccines because these countries simply don’t have the means of manufacturing the vaccines. Accordingly, some argue that it would have been better for Biden to help manufacturers to produce more of the vaccines to send to developing countries.

Tai, in response to some of these arguments, said Wednesday, “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 added, “we will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization needed to make that happen.”

It is expected that lifting the patent waivers could take a month or longer because of legal barriers and global coordination efforts.

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