Ten Democratic Senators have delivered a letter to US President Joe Biden urging him to support temporarily waiving intellectual property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
The letter, delivered Thursday, claims that granting the temporary patent waiver would allow for countries to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines locally and increase vaccination rates in poorer nations, as well as increase the supply of vaccines overall. This waiver was initially proposed by World Trade Organization (WTO) member states South Africa and India in October.
The WTO protects the IP rights of individuals and businesses under a framework called Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). TRIPS requires member states to establish enforcement mechanisms for protected international IP protection under Part III of TRIPS. The proposal by India and South Africa would waive these enforcement obligations until the pandemic has subsided. The senators’ letter to Biden supports the proposal and asks Biden to support it in the WTO. The proposal has also been supported by more than 100 WTO member states and more than 60 Nobel laureates.
Leaders in the pharmaceutical industry say that waiving TRIPS rights would create the potential for supply chain risks, as more manufacturers would be able to produce the vaccine. Despite the fact that TRIPS protections remain in place, issues in manufacturing have already resulted in millions of vaccine doses ruined, such as in early April when a plant in Baltimore ruined 15 million doses.
India and South Africa’s proposal to the WTO is still pending. The Biden administration has said they will study the issue further.