Suspending vaccine patents is the noble choice

09 May 2021 - 00:00 By Sunday Times

Katherine Tai, US trade representative, shocked the world on Wednesday with a brief but powerful tweet - an announcement that the Biden-Harris administration supports waiving intellectual property (IP) protection for Covid vaccines. "This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The administration strongly believes in IP, but in service of ending this pandemic supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines."

This is an extremely important development. For years, the US has been the stumbling block in efforts by mainly the developing world for IP rights to be waived for vaccines and other crucial medical products. The protections are enshrined in the World Trade Organisation's (WTO's) trade-related aspects of IP (Trips) agreements. With the US now softening its stance, other powerful countries and blocs that were previously opposed are also opening up to a temporary waiver. The European Union is said to be open to negotiations, so are France and Spain...

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