One of Joe Biden’s top coronavirus advisers has warned that forcing pharmaceutical companies to give up intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines could backfire on us if it leads to lengthy legal disputes.
Dr.Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the US president, told the Financial Times he would oppose a plan to tear up international trade rules to improve vaccine supplies in developing countries if he was taking too long to bear fruit.
The Biden administration is expected to outline its position on intellectual property rights this week at a World Trade Organization meeting.
Fauci told the FT on Monday he was “agnostic” on how to boost vaccine supplies in developing countries. But he added: “Going back and forth, taking time and lawyers in a legal argument over waivers – that’s not the end of the game. People are dying around the world and we need to send them vaccines. the fastest and most efficient way possible. “
The proposal to allow countries to temporarily revoke patent rights for medical products related to Covid-19 was presented to the WTO by India and South Africa in October. The plan was designed to help developing countries make copies of vaccines without fear of being sued. It has been supported by nearly 60 countries, more than 100 members of the United States Congress and several former world leaders.
Many experts have argued that radical action is needed to supply developing countries with Covid-19 vaccines, especially with the world’s worst outbreak in India, which has only fully vaccinated 2% of its population.
Pharmaceutical companies fought back, warning that there was not enough vaccine material to open up manufacturing globally and that would hurt innovation in the long run.
The companies also said a waiver would be fraught with legal complications, creating potential conflicts with existing national laws and bilateral agreements.
The Biden administration said last month it was considering the waiver proposal, with Fauci apparently one of the main supporters of the idea.
But he told the FT on Monday that he was not committed and that he did not want anything to stand in the way of faster delivery of vaccines to developing countries.
“If you take too long, people are going to die,” he said. “There are other ways to increase vaccine production around the world.”
Some experts have argued that companies should be forced or induced to share their technology with manufacturers, if not to give up their patents entirely.
Fauci warned, however, that this could mean the doses would not be produced until 2023.
Instead, he said companies should be encouraged to increase production in the west and export doses, as some have started to do.
Pfizer has reportedly shipped 10 million doses to Mexico, while the White House has pledged to export 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which it has purchased but has not yet been approved for use in the United States.
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