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US supports intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines; experts discuss its impact

Updated : May 06, 2021 21:27:16 IST

The United States has announced that it supports waiving the protection of intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines.

The waiver, proposed by South Africa and India, could help remove obstacles to ramping up the production of vaccines in developing countries. In her statement, the United States trade representative Katherine Tai said, "The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines."

She also said that the United States would now embark on negotiations at the World Trade Organisation to try to secure the waiver, but warned that this could take time.

The announcement by the US has been welcomed by the World Health Organization. Its director-general has praised the decision as a monumental moment in the fight against COVID-19.

The World Trade Organization has also reportedly urged member nations to hash out details this week for an agreement to temporarily ease the rules protecting intellectual property behind the vaccines. The EU has responded saying it will consider the issue.

So will US support for a patent waiver drive support at the WTO and will the waiver be a game changer in the short to medium term? Will it lead to more equitable vaccine distribution globally? Will it help bridge India's vaccine shortage? To discuss this, Shereen Bhan spoke to Jayant Dasgupta, Former Indian Envoy to WTO; Murali Neelakantan, Principal Lawyer at Amicus and Leena Menghaney, Global IP Adviser at MSF - Access Campaign.

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