Joe Biden’s turning point: yes to the suspension of patents for anti-Covid vaccines

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The turning point was in the air, after the worsening of the Indian crisis and the multiplication of international pressure: the United States announced that it was in favor of the suspension of patents for Covid-19 vaccines, in order to accelerate production and distribution of doses in the world. The change of pace was announced by the US representative for trade Katherine Tai, who in recent days had already anticipated the possible opening of the White House, after months in which the United States had remained firmly on the side of the pharmaceutical companies, since beginning against the hypothesis of a suspension of intellectual property protections.

“This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” Tai said in a statement, stating that Washington will “actively” participate in the ongoing negotiations at the WTO. The shares of the major pharmaceutical companies that have produced the vaccines – including Moderna, BioNTech and Pfizer – have dropped dramatically after news of the potential patent suspension spread.

“The administration firmly believes in intellectual property protections but to put an end to this pandemic it supports the revocation of such protections for Covid-19 vaccines,” said Tai, while discussions are underway at the World Trade Organization on ‘ loosening global trade rules to allow more countries to produce life-saving vaccines. Tai warned that it will take some time to reach the consensus required to revoke patents under WTO rules. “The purpose of the administration is to provide as many safe and effective vaccines as possible to as many people as quickly as possible,” added the US government representative. “Now that our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the administration will continue to intensify its efforts – working with the private sector and all possible partners – to expand vaccine production and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines ”.

The WTO general council, made up of ambassadors, is addressing the key issue of a temporary revocation of patents for Covid-19 vaccines and other tools, which South Africa and India first proposed in October. A WTO intellectual property panel will have to deal with the proposal again at a preliminary meeting this month, ahead of a formal meeting scheduled for June 8 and 9.

World Trade Organization rules, known as Trips, have been changed in the past to allow countries to produce a medicine in an emergency, after India and South Africa led an effort to revoke patents on drugs for the ‘AIDS in the 1990s, which the United Nations says saved tens of millions of lives in the poorest nations. The World Health Organization has established a special technology transfer pool for Covid-19 vaccines, but so far no manufacturer has contributed. “The market has once again failed to meet the health needs of developing countries,” Tai, US Trade Representative, said at a vaccine equity conference last month. “Extraordinary times require extraordinary leadership … This challenge also applies to the sector”.

In recent weeks, the pressures on Biden for a breakthrough have multiplied. Just a few hours ago the People’s Vaccine Alliance – which also includes Oxfam and Emergency – had launched yet another appeal addressed to the world’s greats for a suspension of patents, underlining how the measure is supported by the vast majority of citizens of the G7 countries .

Over one hundred members of the US Congress had spoken out in favor of a renunciation of the monopolies. In a recent letter to Biden, ten Democratic senators – including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – argued that delaying the global spread of the vaccine “to lock down patent protections that drive profits” is a “security threat to American citizens who in the first place they financed the vaccines ”, a reference to the huge public funds with which the research and development phase was financed.

“This is a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19”: this is how the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, greeted the American stance on Twitter. “The commitment of Joe Biden and Ambassador Tai to support the waiver of vaccine patent protections is a powerful example for addressing the challenges of global health.” “I praise the US for this historic decision for #VaccinEquity, giving priority to the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let’s all move quickly together, in solidarity, based on the ingenuity and commitment of the scientists who produced the life-saving vaccines ”.

After Nobel laureates, former heads of state and government and religious leaders, in recent days the celebrities who participated in the recording of “Vax Live: the concert to bring the world together” have also taken to the field, which will be broadcast next Saturday. The event was attended by Prince Harry and President Biden himself, who sent a video message recorded with his wife Jill. The opening of the last few hours gives the show a new light: that of the awareness that in the face of 3 million and 230 thousand deaths, sharing vaccines as much as possible is the only way to restore science to its highest meaning, that of serving the ‘humanity.

Source: Huffington Post Italy Athena2 by

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