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Biden backs COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers

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The Hill
The Hill

The Biden administration will support a proposal to waive international patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, according to a top administration official.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement Wednesday that the "extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures."

The U.S. will begin participating in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations over the exact language of the waiver, which supporters say would make the details of vaccine production widely available and allow lower-income countries to make doses themselves.

"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," Tai said.

She added that the WTO negotiations “will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

The Biden administration has been facing pressure from the international community, drug pricing advocates and congressional Democrats to back the waiver proposal, which was spearheaded by India and South Africa.

While many lower income countries backed the waiver proposal, it was opposed by others like the European Union, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Australia.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been one of the lawmakers pressing for the administration to support the waiver, and praised the move on Twitter.

"I'm glad his administration agreed to support the WTO TRIPS waiver to help countries expand manufacturing of treatments and vaccines. This is a humanitarian crisis and it impacts all of us," Warren tweeted on Wednesday.

--Updated at 3:41 p.m.

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