Biden’s Big Pivot: Yes to Vaccine Patent Waivers

This is a huge move—if largely symbolic in the near term.
The Biden administration’s decision to waive patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines is a “blockbuster” move that supporters see as central to getting more doses to poorer countries and ending the pandemic everywhere, AP reports.

US can't act unilaterally: Making it official means reaching a World Trade Organization consensus—sure to be a months-long slog—and EU nations are so far noncommittal.

Supporters Say: Led by India and South Africa, dozens of developing countries argue the move would allow them to produce their own generic vaccines. And it “could change the game for Africa,” tweeted WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti.

Opponents Say: Waivers won’t actually increase production and would instead scupper future innovation, trigger a scramble for limited raw ingredients, and lead to counterfeit shots, The Washington Post reports. Big Pharma’s preference: Countries share the doses they have and focus on fixing supply chain issues.

The Takeaway: Right now, the move may be more symbolic than substantive. It doesn’t magically solve the problem of limited raw materials nor furnish countries with the specialized technologies to quickly produce the vaccines.
It would likely be 2022 by the time the waiver bears fruit, STAT reports.

Plus: More Hope for Global Demand: CureVac, a small German company, is about to announce clinical trial results for its own RNA vaccine that could be ready as soon as next month. The hope is that it will rival Pfizer and Moderna’s stunningly effective formulas, The New York Times reports.

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