US President Joe Biden after speaking about his vaccination program this Wednesday at the White House.Alex Edelman / POOL / EFE
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his Administration will agree to temporarily suspend patents on coronavirus vaccines.
The announcement comes as the situation in India, which is going through the worst wave of covid that any country has suffered since the start of the pandemic, reminds the most developed states that, until the coronavirus is not defeated worldwide, no one will be totally safe.
The intellectual property exemption would allow poorer countries to manufacture the doses in their territories.
"This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic require extraordinary measures," the US Foreign Trade representative, Katherine Tai, said in a statement.
The United States, along with the European Union, had been one of the main opponents of a proposal by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to lift intellectual property protections with the aim of increasing vaccine production. However, the pressure on Biden was mounting. With more than half of the American adult population vaccinated, various international bodies and even members of his own party advocated for him to support the proposal.
"The Administration strongly believes in intellectual property protections, but in the service of ending this pandemic, it supports the exemption of those protections for covid-19 vaccines," Ambassador Tai says in a statement, announcing that Washington will actively participate in the negotiations at the World Trade Organization "to make this happen." The Trade representative adds that the Democratic Administration will continue to work with the private sector and all possible partners "to expand the manufacture and distribution of vaccines." It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.
In recent months, India and South Africa have succeeded in getting 60 other governments - most of the lowest income on the globe - to become sponsors of patent releases. In total, more than 100 countries supported the first proposal presented in October by India and South Africa at the WTO. India and South Africa announced that they will present a new proposal to the WTO this May, with the aim of releasing the patents of vaccines, medicines and health products necessary to face the pandemic. The initiative tries to buy time to bring positions closer to the governments that continue to oppose the measure, while seeking to add new forces to the growing and unprecedented support it has received in recent weeks.