Many in the U.S. president’s party want him to relinquish protection against the intellectual property of the vaccine, allowing them to be copied.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai says vaccines need to be more widely available around the world to end the coronavirus pandemic and foster economic recovery.
Speaking at the Council of the Americas conference on Tuesday, Tai said the world had really moved towards the end of the pandemic, but that there is a lot of work ahead.
“This includes making the vaccine widely available and addressing global inequality in access to vaccines,” he said. “This is not just a public health requirement. Our economic recovery depends on it. “
Tai to discuss demands from developing countries for a waiver by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of intellectual property rights over coronavirus vaccines during a WTO General Council meeting in late this week.
In recent days he has met with top executives from major vaccine manufacturers to discuss the proposed waiver and ways to increase vaccine production and distribution.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday that Tai “would start talking about how we can distribute this vaccine more widely, more licensed and shared,” adding that more details would be offered in the coming days. .
Most Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and many Liberal Democratic senators have urged President Joe Biden’s administration to support the waiver of vaccine intellectual property, arguing it would help save lives and prioritize people above the profits of pharmaceutical companies.
The pharmaceutical industry sees the proposed waiver as too broad and would set a precedent that would erode incentives to develop future vaccines.
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the head of the Ways and Means trade subcommittee, told reporters that Tai and other U.S. officials were trying to develop a way forward and reducing the scope of the waiver proposal could help reassure the industry.
Representative Rosa DeLauro told reporters she had spoken with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo earlier Wednesday and saw “some positive signs” that the Biden administration is committed to helping other countries in the current humanitarian crisis.
A dozen House Republicans wrote to Tai on Tuesday urging her to continue to oppose the waiver of intellectual property rights, arguing it would not significantly improve vaccine availability.
“The scope of the waiver requested is excessive and unjustified in view of the economic damage it would cause and the negligible benefits it would provide,” the members wrote, led by Republican Darrell Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.