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WTO Decision on Waiving Intellectual Property Rights is a Distraction from the Real Work that Needs to be Done

June 17, 2022
Media Contact
Vicky Stinson

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, president & CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), released the following statement in response to a decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) to endorse a COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property waiver:

“The agreement announced by the WTO will do nothing to increase COVID vaccination rates in the developing world, while at the same time setting a harmful precedent for the world’s ability to respond to the next pandemic.

“It is unfortunate that trade officials in Geneva, including those from the United States, have fallen victim to a false narrative that intellectual property rights stand in the way of beating back the global COVID-19 pandemic. To the contrary: IP is an enabler of innovation and global scientific collaboration. It is what builds trust and fosters the partnerships needed to bring medical breakthroughs to patients around the globe. The decision at the WTO is nothing more than a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.

“It is particularly disappointing to see the United States abandon its previous claims of bright lines on countries that they have identified as bad actors on IP.

“Just this week, thousands of researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors from more than 65 countries convened in California to look for ways to partner and to work together to tackle the most pressing scientific challenges of our time: disease, climate, hunger. Actions by the WTO will make this work more challenging.

“To date, there have been more than 12 billion COVID vaccines administered around the world. Even some of the countries that demanded an IP Waiver, including South Africa and India, now concede that there is adequate supply of affordable vaccines. In fact, hundreds of millions of doses have been turned away, including from countries across Africa.

 “We need to be focusing on the real challenges we face. We need to work together to ensure that, in areas where vaccine rates are lagging, we can get more shots in arms. To do that, we must apply the best practices developed over the last few years to overcome global vaccine hesitancy and to strengthen local health care systems.

“Let’s work together to end this pandemic, to ensure that the world is better prepared for the next one, and to make certain that new medical breakthroughs are able to reach more people, in more communities, across the globe.”

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