The United States will advocate for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patent protections in discussions with the World Trade Organization, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday.
The Biden administration "believes strongly in intellectual property protections," Tai said in a statement, but the White House will back the waiver given the "extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic." The administration has faced pressure to support the measure, which is aimed at increasing vaccinations around the world — especially in countries experiencing a surge in infections, like India — without having to rely solely on exports.
Proponents were pleased with the news, but shortly after Tai's announcement, stocks of pharmaceutical companies that have produced vaccines, including Moderna and Pfizer, plummeted.
It remains unclear if the protections will actually be waived since all 164 members of the WTO will need to agree on the matter, but backing from the U.S. should certainly move the needle.
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