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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

Biden Supports IP Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines

May 7, 2021

The Biden administration has announced that they will back a waiver of the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement so that any country can produce vaccines without worrying about patent infringement. This has the potential to drastically hinder global vaccine manufacturing and distribution and sets a dangerous precedent for future pandemics.

The proposal weakens IP protections and allows forced transfer of COVID vaccine technology, covering patents, industrial designs, copyrights, and protection of trade secrets. 

The waiver, first proposed by India and South Africa last October, has garnered the support of some 100 developing countries. In addition, House and Senate Democrats have been urging President Biden to  support the waiver plan.

BioUtah is disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to support the TRIPS Waiver,” said Kelvyn Cullimore, president and CEO of BioUtah. “IP protections are fundamental to spawning the investment in new life-changing medicines that has not only made the U.S. the global leader in drug research and development, but has produced in record time high quality COVID-19 vaccines to fight the pandemic. Unfortunately, the waiver proposal will neither ensure continued innovation nor put more shots in arms today. Our biopharmaceutical industry recognizes the urgency to expand and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to every corner of the world. They are dedicated to meeting that goal through a variety of solutions that do not compromise important IP protections that are essential to combating future health challenges.”

Next steps: There will likely be extensive negotiations at the WTO on text before any waiver becomes actionable. WTO members are expected to meet to discuss the waiver next month with a formal TRIPS Council meeting scheduled for June 8 and 9.

BIO issued a statement, stating, “we’re extremely disappointed that the Administration has chosen to support waiving critical protections for American ingenuity and to delay the equitable delivery of needed COVID vaccines to people around the globe.” 

The statement follows an April letter to United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, in which BIO expresses concern that the waiver would hinder rather than help global cooperative efforts to end the pandemic and could undermine U.S. global competitiveness.