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Lawmakers urge Biden to back 'moral' patent waiver to speed vaccine access

EconomyApr 23, 2021 05:30PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Nurse prepares to administer the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine against the COVID-19 at the Eka Kotebe General Hospital in Addis Ababa 2/2

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers and nonprofit groups on Friday heaped pressure on the Biden administration to back a temporary patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines to help poor countries contain the pandemic.

The groups delivered a petition signed by two million people, adding to separate letters already sent to U.S. President Joe Biden by a group of senators, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, nearly 100 members of the House and 60 former heads of state and 100 Nobel Prize winners.

Senator Bernie Sanders said it was also in the United States' own interest to ensure as many people were vaccinated as quickly as possible, to limit the chance of virus mutations that could prompt further U.S. lockdowns. But he also appealed to Biden's desire to rebuild U.S. credibility in the world.

"On this enormously important health issue, this moral issue, the United States has got to do the right thing," he told a news conference.

The United States and a handful of other big countries have blocked negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) involving a proposal spearheaded by India and South Africa that now has the support of 100 WTO members. The proposal would temporarily waive the intellectual property (IP) rights of pharmaceutical companies to allow developing countries to produce vaccines.

Proponents are pushing Washington to change course ahead of the next formal WTO meeting on the issue on May 5.

'COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE'

One source briefed on the issue told Reuters U.S. trade officials realized "that something needs to be done, whether it's the TRIPS waiver or some other solution," a reference to the WTO's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property agreement.

A second source said the administration was concerned that worsening COVID-19 outbreaks in India and other low-income countries could undermine progress made in the United States.

The office of U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai had no immediate comment on the petitions or the latest comments.

Tai last week likened the huge gap in access to medicines to the AIDS crisis and called it "completely unacceptable," but stopped short of backing the waiver, which is opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech, Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

Critics argue that waiving IP rights could reduce the safety of vaccines worldwide, and say other issues - such as improving distribution networks - are far more urgent priorities.

Lawmakers urge Biden to back 'moral' patent waiver to speed vaccine access
 

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Comments (7)
Me comment
Me comment Apr 25, 2021 10:33AM ET
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They cab produce them but you won't know what is in it as those countries have no accountability for pharmaceuticals.
vivek bana
vivek bana Apr 24, 2021 1:45PM ET
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money and life after hoarding vaccine rich nation wait and watch while people die due to patents and unaffordablity
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Apr 24, 2021 12:13PM ET
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We should be exporting all unallocated vaccine production immediately. Lots of ppl have no intention of getting the vaccine.
la popeye
la popeye Apr 24, 2021 8:55AM ET
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it was not some taxpayer money that helped big pharma in vaccine dev. ?
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Apr 24, 2021 8:55AM ET
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So??
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Apr 23, 2021 9:54PM ET
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What is the difference between Robert Mugabe and the democrats? Nothing, both would do anything to stay in power
Benjamin McIntire
Benjamin McIntire Apr 23, 2021 9:54PM ET
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Weird, random and totally illogical.
danny Levine
danny Levine Apr 23, 2021 9:18PM ET
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LOL greedy big pharma will never let it happen. vaccines is all this covid drama about
Rajo Ramana
Rajo Ramana Apr 23, 2021 7:43PM ET
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world should take the collective responsibility, profit motivated pvt pharmaceuticals will never accept waiver of IP, but government should tax pharmaceuticals and provide aid to poorer countries before it's too too late, and we could so easily avoid a global catastrophe, so near yet so far from solution, A globslbpandemic body to be formed to coordinate Global distribution and administration of pandemic, even empowering them to declare limited local lockouts, backed by aids, dthe mechanism should help in fast decision and implementation with close monitoring and fast corrective actions, for this may be even very limited sovereignty of nation may have to be surrendered to such global bodies for a minimal period.
Rajo Ramana
Rajo Ramana Apr 23, 2021 7:43PM ET
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the issue now is timely solution implementation and not absence of solution like before, it's question of tackling relatively known problem rather than an unknown factor as before.
 
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