Senators urge Biden to back temporary WTO waiver of IP rights to speed vaccine access

FILE PHOTO: The word "COVID-19" is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration taken November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bernie Sanders and nine other Democratic senators urged President Joe Biden on Friday to back a temporary patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines that would allow countries to manufacture treatments locally and accelerate the global vaccination effort.

World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonko-Iweala on Wednesday urged WTO member to address inequitable access to vaccines, with low-income countries administering just 0.2% of 700 million global doses.

She urged WTO members to advance negotiations on a proposal by India and South Africa and backed by over 80 WTO members that would temporarily waive the intellectual property (IP) rights of pharmaceutical companies. The issue will be discussed by WTO members in early May.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai this week said the gaping divide between developed and developing countries' access to medicines, seen previously during the AIDS crisis, amounted to a market failure and was "completely unacceptable".

But Washington has not backed the temporary waiver of IP rights, which is opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

They argue that waiving IP rights could reduce the safety of vaccines worldwide, and say other issues - such as improving distribution networks - are far more urgent priorities.

In their letter, the senators called on Biden to embrace the waiver to help end the pandemic. Slow vaccinations abroad will allow the virus to continue producing dangerous mutations, proponents say.

"To bring the pandemic to its quickest end and save the lives of Americans and people around the world, we ask that you prioritize people over pharmaceutical company profits by reversing the Trump position and announcing U.S. support for the WTO TRIPS waiver," they said.

Sixty former heads of state and 100 Nobel Prize winners also backed the waiver in a letter sent to Biden on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Next In World

Analysis-S.Korea's COVID-19 vaccine shortages overshadow Moon-Biden summit
India's COVID deaths cross quarter million mark, no sign of peak
Another Thai protest leader says has COVID-19 after weeks in jail
Taiwan warns on rising COVID-19 risk, stocks tank
Australia tracing source of COVID-19 case in Victoria state
Violence grips mixed Arab-Jewish towns in Israel as tensions flare
Magnitude 5.8 earthquake strikes Mindoro, Philippines - EMSC
Hospitals in tourist-haven Costa Rica in 'serious' phase as Covid-19 cases surge
35 killed in Gaza, 5 in Israel, as violence escalates
Prosecutors shelve case over Cairo hotel gang rape allegation for 'insufficent evidence'

Stories You'll Enjoy