White House Supports Waiving COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Protections

White House Supports Waiving COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Protections

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Earlier this week President Joe Biden showed support for waiving the patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines. The World Trade Organization (WTO) had called on the US to suspend some of the intellectual property protections on vaccines in an effort to get more people in developing nations immunized against COVID-19, but the US had opposed those calls until now.

The White House’s announcement means drug makers like Pfizer (PFE), BioNTech (BNTX), and CureVac (CVAC) may have to share information about their effective vaccines. After Biden voiced his support for lifting patent protections, the European Union and China signaled they might be willing to follow suit.

Controversy Surrounds Vaccine Patents

There are strong opinions the debate surrounding vaccine patent protections. United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the pandemic calls for “extraordinary measures,” and the Biden Administration still believes strongly in protecting IP rights. Defenders of IP rights are often willing to grant exceptions under unique circumstances for the greater good.

Vaccines have been very lucrative for drugmakers. Take Moderna (MRNA) as one example: it recently posted its first-ever quarterly profit driven by sales of its COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna also raised its full-year forecast for vaccine sales.

Drugmakers say lifting patent protections will cause more harm than good. They argue it will create vaccine development confusion between public and private entities, which could “weaken already strained supply chains” and spur a “proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”

The Path Forward is Unclear

The vaccine makers’ stocks were under pressure after Biden made his announcement. The Biden Administration plans to lobby other countries to back its position.

It will be some time before a final decision takes place, and it is not yet entirely clear how vaccine companies will be impacted. WTO members need to figure out how the drug companies will share the IP needed to increase supplies of COVID-19 vaccines. EU officials warn negotiations at the WTO could last for months and potentially years.

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ABOUT Meg Richardson Meg Richardson is a writer specializing in markets, technology, and personal finance. She loves breaking down seemingly complex ideas and making them readable and interesting for everyone. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia University. When she is not writing about finance, she enjoys running in Central Park and drawing cartoons.

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