The Biden administration, in a major decision Wednesday, said it would support easing patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines after intense internal debate and strong pushback from American drugmakers, potentially expanding the global supply and narrowing the vaccination gap between rich and poor nations.
The move is preliminary and will not guarantee the global patent rules are lifted right away. But the Biden administration’s signal of support amounts to a major step that aid groups and Democrats had been pressing for.
“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,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai wrote in a statement.
President Joe Biden and Tai had been weighing the issue after calls from global advocacy groups and progressives to support waivers on World Trade Organization rules that had been proposed by India and South Africa. Biden as a candidate promised to support such waivers, but had been under pressure from pharmaceutical companies to keep them in place.