The Biden administration has announced it now supports temporarily waiving the intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines, in what the World Trade Organization is calling a “monumental moment.”
India and South Africa first proposed the waiver in October, but the United States and other wealthy nations blocked the WTO from even opening negotiations on the proposal.
Supporters say the waiver is critically needed to increase the rate of vaccine production for the Global South as COVID-19 rapidly spreads in India, Latin America and other regions where few vaccines are available.
Biden’s support for the waiver is “an incredibly pleasant surprise” and “late, but still welcome,” says Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the AccessIBSA project, which campaigns for access to medicines in India, Brazil and South Africa.
“The proposal is monumental because what it does is it allows for more vaccines to be manufactured in the world,” Prabhala says. “The whole world faces a crippling shortage of coronavirus vaccines.”
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