The US government's position was announced by the country's trade representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday amid World Trade Organisation talks over easing global trade rules to enable more countries to produce more of the life-saving vaccines.
“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," Tai said in the statement.
But she cautioned that it would take time to reach the required global “consensus" to waive the protections under WTO rules, and US officials said it would not have an immediate effect on the global supply of Covid-19 shots.
Tai had earlier held meetings with CEOs of several vaccine manufacturing companies, including Moderna and Pfizer, on the TRIPS waiver issue.
Amid mounting pressure, the White House had earlier stated it will do whatever is best to end the pandemic.
"We are going to do what is in the best interest of ending the pandemic. We are already engaged in steps to increase vaccine production," said White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The previous Trump administration had opposed such a move.
Rich countries against waiver
Wealthy countries like the US and Britain as well as the European Union were against the proposal to waive TRIPS.
They said that a ban would stifle innovation at pharmaceutical companies by robbing them of the incentive to make huge investments in research and development.
This would be especially counterproductive during the current pandemic which needs the drugmakers to remain on their toes to deal with a mutating virus, they argued.
Why does India want the waiver?
If India succeeds in getting the proposed waiver of the agreement on TRIPS, it will reduce the cost of vaccines substantially and enable free flow of medicines, easy technology transfer across the world.
India and South Africa had approached the global trade body in October, calling on it to waive parts of the agreement on TRIPS.
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