A group of Republicans on Tuesday sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai coming out in opposition of requests from various countries to relax intellectual property rules regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
A group of 60 developing nations, led by India and South Africa, proposed waiving rules from the World Trade Organization with the hope that this will help increase production of the vaccine. The Republicans, led by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and California Rep. Darrell Issa, argue that doing so would actually hurt production, as well as innovation, and cause fewer people to receive the vaccine.
“The United States should continue to oppose the request by India, South Africa, and other nations to waive certain portions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for all members of the World Trade Organization (WTO),” the group wrote in the letter.
The GOP legislators go on to claim that “the requested waiver is extraordinarily broad and unnecessary to accomplish the goal of giving as many people as possible access to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, including in developing countries. Rather, the waiver would undermine the very innovation that has led to the record-breaking rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines already saving lives around the world, and it would not meaningfully improve vaccine availability.
“The international community should instead focus on overcoming the real obstacles faced by developing countries in accessing vaccines and treatments, which does not require waiving intellectual property (IP) rights.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week that President Joe Biden has not decided on whether or not to support a waiver despite pressure from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We have to evaluate whether it’s more effective to manufacture here and provide supply to the world, or the IP waiver is an option,” she said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told the Financial Times on Monday that he’s “agnostic” about a waiver, but said he’d rather not get involved in a legal battle that would inevitably occur with pharmaceutical companies.
“If you take too long, people are going to die,” he said. “There are other ways to ramp up vaccine production around the world.”
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