[Ip-health] CNBC: White House weighs temporarily lifting intellectual property shield on Covid-19 vaccines

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Mar 26 21:01:25 PDT 2021


White House weighs temporarily lifting intellectual property shield on
Covid-19 vaccines


Kayla Tausche at KAYLATAUSCHE
Jacob Pramuk at JACOBPRAMUK


The White House is weighing whether to temporarily lift intellectual
property protections on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.
The move would allow other countries to replicate existing vaccines.
Concerns have grown about the fact that the U.S. and a handful of other
wealthy countries hold the right to a disproportionate amount of the global

The White House is weighing whether to suspend intellectual property
protections for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, in response to pressure
from developing nations and subsequent support from progressive lawmakers,
according to three sources familiar with the matter.

A temporary suspension of intellectual property protections would apply to
all medical technologies to treat or prevent Covid-19. South Africa and
India made a formal request to the World Trade Organization to waive the
protections until the pandemic is over, but the issue was tabled without a

The White House convened a meeting of deputy-level policymakers on March
22, a senior administration official said, but they reached no final

The White House’s review comes in response to a letter sent in late March
by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging the administration to study the issue
after several Democratic colleagues — including Reps. Earl Blumenauer of
Oregon, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois —
brought it to her attention. The letter has not been released to the
public. But a senior aide said Pelosi supports the position of her members,
who are in favor of issuing such a waiver, even on a temporary basis.

“The view is ‘We’re not safe until the world is safe,’” one of the sources
said of the support from progressives on Capitol Hill.

The move would allow other countries to replicate existing vaccines. The
United States has so far approved three vaccine shots: one developed by
American company Pfizer and German-based BioNTech, another produced by U.S.
firm Moderna and the third made by American company Johnson & Johnson.

Concerns have grown about the U.S. and a handful of other wealthy countries
owning the rights to a disproportionate amount of the global vaccine
supply, while other nations struggle to inoculate their people.

The Hill first reported the support for the move from progressive lawmakers.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which would be expected to
deliver a final verdict to the World Trade Organization, said saving lives
and ending the pandemic remains the “top priority of the United States.”

“As part of rebuilding our alliances, we are exploring every avenue to
coordinate with our global partners and are evaluating the efficacy of this
specific proposal by its true potential to save lives,” USTR spokesman Adam
Hodge told CNBC.

The pharmaceutical industry has fiercely opposed waiving the patent
protections. It worries doing so will undermine innovation to fight future

CNBC contacted Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for comment.

Clete Willems, former deputy director of the National Economic Council,
said lifting the protections would set a dangerous precedent of sharing

“The administration needs to steer clear of this trap, which would
undermine decades of U.S. policy against forced technology transfer to
countries like China and won’t directly increase vaccine distribution,”
Willems, now a partner at Akin Gump, told CNBC. “The model that they are
pursuing with their Quad partners is much more promising.”

In advance of a meeting on March 12, the Quad — a group comprise of the
U.S., India, Japan and Australia that seeks to counter the influence of
China — announced a complex financing deal that would enhance manufacturing
of vaccines in the Indo-Pacific, where there has been a shortage. The group
set a goal of delivering up to 1 billion vaccines by 2022.

Nearly 19% of American adults, and about 15% of the total U.S. population,
are fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention data.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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