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Home / News / World /  US pharma body disappointed over support for Covid-19 vaccine patent waiver

A US pharmaceutical trade body has expressed disappointment over the decision of the Biden administration to support India and South Africa's proposal before the WTO to temporarily waive anti-Covid vaccine patents to boost its supply.

PhRMA which represents America’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research companies has said that the "decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines."

PhRMA companies are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested nearly USD1 trillion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated USD83 billion in 2019 alone.

(PhRMA) president and CEO Stephen J Ubl said this change in longstanding American policy will not save lives.

“It also flies in the face of President (Joe) Biden’s stated policy of building up American infrastructure and creating jobs by handing over American innovations to countries looking to undermine our leadership in biomedical discovery," he said.

“This decision does nothing to address the real challenges to getting more shots in arms, including last-mile distribution and limited availability of raw materials. These are the real challenges we face that this empty promise ignores," Ubl said.

“In the past few days alone, we’ve seen more American vaccine exports, increased production targets from manufacturers, new commitments to COVAX and unprecedented aid for India during its devastating Covid-19 surge," he said.

“Biopharmaceutical manufacturers are fully committed to providing global access to Covid-19 vaccines, and they are collaborating at a scale that was previously unimaginable, including more than 200 manufacturing and other partnerships to date.

The biopharmaceutical industry shares the goal to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, and we hope we can all re-focus on that shared objective," he added.

House Ways and Means Committee Republican leader Kevin Brady said that the world needs Covid vaccines now, but it shouldn’t be done by damaging the pathway to new vaccines and cures the world will need in the future.

“Looking ahead to the next pandemic, it is dangerous for America to consent to strip away patents on lifesaving Covid vaccines now that cost businesses billions of dollars to develop at a historic pace - and to reward China with access to US innovation for a world pandemic China created," he said.

“The better solution to help our global neighbours is to solve the very real logistical hurdles slowing access to these vaccines, not undermine the incentives to develop them," Brady said.

Nurses in the US on the other hand applauded the decision.

“The welcome statement by President Biden’s US Trade Representative Katherine Tai joining this effort is a landmark decision that is also a tribute to healthcare and human rights activists, and nurses in particular, around the world who have been pressing for this humanitarian step," said National Nurses United (NNU) president Jean Ross.

“As nurses on the front lines, we can tell you with absolute certainty: People are dying and will continue to die because of strict IP laws that are preventing the generic production of Covid-19 vaccines," said NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo.

“There is no time to waste; we need to urgently scale up the manufacturing of vaccines, and to do that, the WTO must grant this waiver," he said.

In a statement, KEI, a civil society organisation that is on the forefront of IP waiver demand, applauded the decision by Tai to “actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)" for a waiver of intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines.

This decision isolates the European Union and other countries that have been blocking the waiver, a media release said.

The Biden administration's decision will make it easier for the WTO's General Council to approve the proposal.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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