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Support of "TRIPS" Waiver Sets Dangerous Precedent

May 5, 2021
Media Contact
Rich Masters BIO

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), released the following statement in response to the White House's support of waiving critical intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines:

"We are 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.

"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. 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”.  This policy leads in the opposite direction.

"Today’s decision is especially disheartening after BIO put forward a list of policy solutions that would  establish the COVID Global Strategy for Harnessing Access Reaching Everyone (SHARE) Program.

"The Global SHARE Program would ensure sufficient global supply of vaccines, ensure safe and expeditious global access to vaccines and therapeutics, and bolster ongoing efforts to strengthen and support healthcare systems in low-and middle-income countries in addressing COVID. It would accomplish these goals without compromising protections for intellectual property or further stretching limited global vaccine expertise to the breaking point.

"And all of this while we have yet to fulfill our existing commitment to the international COVAX vaccine donation program.

"BIO has warned on several occasions that the TRIPS waiver has the potential to drastically hinder existing efforts to scale up global manufacturing, disrupt efforts to equitably distribute the vaccines to every corner of the globe through COVAX, and further strain the global supply chain.

"Also of concern, this decision will disadvantage patients by undermining existing incentives to develop vaccines and therapeutics for future pandemics. 

"As the U.S. participates in text-based negotiations moving forward with this ill-advised plan, BIO strongly encourages the Administration to:

  • Prevent the expropriation of technology that has use beyond COVID vaccines which could be used to compete against American companies and workers in the future;
  • Protect American companies from the coerced transfer of technology by foreign governments;
  • Ensure that these actions do not impede global supply chains for existing facilities;
  • Avoid any precedents that would work to undermine incentives to develop vaccines and treatments in future pandemics;  and
  • Ensure that the manufacturing of any vaccines is done in compliance with rigorous safety and manufacturing standards.

"The United States has unfortunately chosen to set a dangerous precedent with these actions. But how we negotiate with the WTO moving forward will be critical in mitigating this myopic decision and its effects on patients around the world."

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