KEI comment on the May 5, 2021 USTR statement to support negotiations on a waiver of TRIPS rules for COVID 19 vaccines.
Attributed to James Love, KEI Director
KEI applauds the decision by President Biden and USTR Katherine Tai to “actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO)” for a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. This decision isolates the European Union and other countries that have been blocking the waiver.
Tai states that “[the] negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved,” and time is not something unimportant. That said, one can conclude that at this moment, governments can proceed with the expectation that the WTO rules relevant to patents will not be a barrier.
The decision today is a result of the extensive mobilization by civil society, including almost every group and everyone I know who works on access to medicines issues.
A few things are worth mentioning. One reason why the U.S. will back a waiver on vaccines but not therapeutics or diagnostics, is that vaccines in foreign markets protect us. Therapeutics, diagnostics in foreign markets, don’t.
But to focus on the positive, now that the U.S. supports a TRIPS waiver, for vaccines, people can stop emphasizing all of the things that won’t be done and start focusing on what needs to be done. In this regard, it is a good time to brush up on potential for the Biden Administration to use the Defense Production Act to loosen up access to manufacturing know-how and access to working cell lines, and ask the WHO what its procedures are for evaluating quality of generic/biosimilar vaccines.