Recently, Katherine Tai, the new U.S Trade Representative announced that the Biden administration is now supporting the waiver of IP protections for Covid-19 Vaccines. In October 2020, India and South Africa first proposed IP waiver on Covid-19 developments and vaccines before the World Trade Organization. Since then, Ambassadors at the WTO’s General Council have been debating the idea. This announcement is a positive breakthrough in India and South Africa’s continuous attempts to get the member countries to agree to such a waiver to fight the pandemic effectively.
Many think that this symbolic move may speed up the inoculation drives across the world especially in poor and middle-income countries amid the raging coronavirus pandemic. This move could potentially set a precedent for governments to exert pressure on pharma companies to release their patent protection, potentially undermining support for growth in pharma research overall.
Interestingly, the statement comes around when the U.S has secured enough vaccines for its citizens. According to the statement, negotiations will most likely take time given the complex nature of the institution and the issues involved. However, the statement doesn’t completely support the India-South Africa proposal. The India-South Africa proposal is for a waiver on all Covid-19 developments, including therapeutics and diagnostics, while the statement indicates that the U.S support for IP waiver is limited to Covid-19 vaccines only.
If the EU, Japan, Canada, and other developed countries support the waiver proposal (which appears unlikely for now), competent companies that have strong expertise in vaccine technology would be in position to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik V, Covidshield and Covaxin that are currently protected by patents, helping enhance global supplies.
Author: Vaishnavi Shrivastava, Intern at Lex Praxis Advocates & Legal Consultants