U.S. support of TRIPS waiver sets dangerous precedent

May 6, 2021
The Biden administration announced yesterday that they support the proposed “TRIPS” waiver of IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines. We explain why this harms American workers and innovation—and won’t help get vaccines to people around the world who need them the most. …
BIO

The Biden administration announced yesterday that they support the proposed “TRIPS” waiver of IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines. We explain why this harms American workers and innovation—and won’t help get vaccines to people around the world who need them the most. (554 words, 2 minutes, 46 seconds)

 

U.S. support of TRIPS waiver sets dangerous precedent

 
 

The Biden administration announced yesterday that they support a proposed waiver on IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines—which has the potential to drastically hinder global vaccine manufacturing and distribution and sets a dangerous precedent for future pandemics.

The White House will support a waiver of the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said yesterday.

The proposal weakens IP protections and allows forced transfer of COVID vaccine technology. As STAT News explains, the proposal “would cover patents, industrial designs, copyrights, and protection of trade secrets. Ultimately, a waiver would make it easier for countries that permit compulsory licensing to allow a manufacturer to export vaccines.” 

BIO’s statement: “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,” says BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath.

Here’s why: “Handing needy countries a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards, and sizable workforce needed will not help people waiting for the vaccine. Handing them the blueprint to construct a kitchen that—in optimal conditions—can take a year to build will not help us stop the emergence of dangerous new COVID variants,” she explains.  

Read: Why the TRIPS waiver wouldn’t work 

“This is not just a matter of forcibly transferring IP and know-how from America to other nations,” says BIO Chair Dr. Jeremy Levin, CEO of Ovid Therapeutics. “There was and is no need to rebuild factories around the world where not only will it take a long time to do so but also the standards and capabilities that exist in America cannot be easily replicated or guaranteed. In the future, this decision will act as a disincentive to companies to respond to the next pandemic.” 

“The better alternative would have been to follow through on the President’s pledge just last week to make the United States the world’s ‘arsenal of vaccines,’” continues Dr. McMurry-Heath—but the proposed TRIPS waiver “leads in the opposite direction.” 

Read: BIO’s proposal for a program to get vaccines and therapeutics to patients who need them the most 

But you don’t have to take our word for it...

“We are all horrified by the images that we are seeing in India and in other places around the world hard-hit by COVID-19. The proposed WTO/TRIPS waiver would not solve this crisis and would exacerbate the core manufacturing and distribution challenges, as well as introduce serious new safety concerns." – Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers

".@POTUS is wrong on so quickly supporting waiving #covid vaccine IP protections. There are lots of ways to rapidly amplify distribution of vaccines to the developing world. What has been achieved is miraculous and now the partnerships that have produced vaccines being undermined." – Steve Clemons, Editor-at-Large of The Hill

"The only immediate beneficiary here is China, who has long sought a dismantling of these global rules that protect America’s intellectual property, and is positioned to copy these vaccines." – Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb (H/T Axios Vitals)

What’s next: USTR said the United States “will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make [the waiver] happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.” 

Read BIO’s full statement and recommendations for how the U.S. should participate in these negotiations. 

 
 
 
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President Biden’s Thursday: Heading to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he’ll tour a water plant and speak about the American Jobs Plan. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Amid an unusual House Republican leadership shakeup, a few hearings to keep an eye on today: how to advance scientific research for the future of U.S. innovation, America’s Black maternal health care crisis, and USDA’s Rural Development mission area.

 
 
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