Washington: With the declared aim to ensure the availability of COVID vaccine across the globe, Joe Biden's administration announced its support to remove patent claim on vaccines.
A report quoting the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that the US would extend support to a patent waiver of Covid-19 vaccines, defying the business' stress on protecting intellectual property rights only for vaccines.
"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," Tai said in a statement.
the Biden administration had been under intense pressure to waive protections for vaccine manufacturers, especially amid criticism that rich nations were hoarding shots.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), called the US decision "historic" and said it marked "a monumental moment in the fight against COVID19."
However, Tai cautioned that negotiations "will take time given the consensus-based nature" of the WTO.
For months the WTO has been facing calls to temporarily remove the intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines, known as a TRIPS waiver in reference to the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.
But that notion has been fiercely opposed by pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, which insist that the patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production and warned the move could hamper innovation.
"A waiver is the simple but the wrong answer to what is a complex problem," the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations lobby group said, describing the US move as "disappointing."
Countries such as New Zealand, however, welcomed the US announcement, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the move "tremendous news," adding that it would help his country manufacture mRNA vaccines locally.
India, where the death count hit a new daily record amid fears the peak is still to come, has been leading the fight within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow more drugmakers to manufacture the vaccines -- a move pharma giants oppose.
France, on the other hand, has said it is opposed to the waiver, stating it prefers instead a donation-based model to help poor countries overcome a lack of vaccines.