White House plans to lift intellectual property shield

White House plans to lift intellectual property shield

Vials of the Janssen Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
Johnson & Johnson via Reuters
The White House is considering whether to suspend intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, in response to pressure from developing countries and subsequent support from progressive lawmakers, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
A temporary suspension of intellectual property protections would apply to all medical technologies to treat or prevent Covid-19. South Africa and India have formally asked the World Trade Organization to forgo protections until the pandemic is over, but the issue was tabled without a resolution.

The White House called a meeting of MPs-level policymakers on March 22, a senior administration official said, but they did not come up with a final decision.

The White House review follows a letter sent in late March by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging the administration to look into the matter after several fellow Democrats – including Representatives. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois – brought it to his attention. The letter was not made public. But a senior aide said Pelosi supports the position of its members, who are in favor of issuing such a waiver, even on a temporary basis.

“The point of view is ‘We’re not safe until the world is safe,'” one of the sources said of Progressive support on Capitol Hill.

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This decision would allow other countries to replicate existing vaccines. The United States has so far approved three vaccines: one developed by the American company Pfizer and the German company BioNTech, the other produced by the American company Moderna and the third by the American company Johnson & Johnson.

Concerns have grown over the United States and a handful of other wealthy countries holding the rights to a disproportionate amount of the world’s vaccine supply, while other nations struggle to immunize their populations.

The Hill first signaled support for the decision from progressive lawmakers.

The office of the US Trade Representative, which is expected to deliver a final verdict at the World Trade Organization, said saving lives and ending the pandemic remains “the top US priority.”

“As part of rebuilding our alliances, we are exploring all possibilities of coordination with our global partners and evaluating the effectiveness of this specific proposal against its true potential to save lives,” said the spokesperson for USTR, Adam Hodge, at CNBC.

The pharmaceutical industry has been fiercely opposed to waiving patent protections. He fears that this will undermine innovation to fight future diseases.

CNBC has reached out to Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for comment.

Clete Willems, former deputy director of the National Economic Council, said lifting protections would set a dangerous precedent for sharing technology.

“The administration must avoid this trap, which would undermine decades of US policy against the forced transfer of technology to countries like China and will not directly increase vaccine distribution,” said Willems, now Akin Gump partner. , at CNBC. “The model they are pursuing with their Quad partners is much more promising. ”

Ahead of a meeting on March 12, the Quad – a group made up of the United States, India, Japan and Australia that seeks to counter China’s influence – announced a complex funding deal that would improve the manufacture of vaccines in the Indo-Pacific, where there has been a shortage. The group has set a target of delivering up to 1 billion vaccines by 2022.

Nearly 19% of American adults and about 15% of the total American population are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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