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A health worker administers a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Bidderford, Maine, on April 26.
A health worker administers a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Bidderford, Maine, on April 26. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

The US should join an effort to force vaccine makers to waive intellectual property rights to coronavirus vaccines and treatments so more countries can start making them, a group of more than 300 public health experts said Friday.

“We are public health faculty, administrators, students and practitioners moved to action by the urgent need for the United States to support the temporary waiver of some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules proposed by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) during the COVID-19 emergency,” the group said in a letter to the Biden administration Friday.
“Despite widespread support for its adoption, the Trump Administration led opposition to the waiver and, with a handful of other WTO signatories, blocked its adoption.
“We urge you to reverse this stance by supporting the swift adoption of the temporary waiver and helping ensure all countries achieve access to sufficient vaccines to end the global pandemic and restart the global economy.”

The group, led by Columbia University professors Terry McGovern and Chelsea Clinton, said the so-called TRIPS waiver would allow local manufacture of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. “Allowing countries to manufacture locally will speed access to vaccines and treatment, prevent unnecessary deaths, and facilitate a stronger, faster economic recovery,” they wrote.

“Until vaccines, testing, and treatments are accessible to everyone everywhere we risk recurring new variants, drug resistance, and greater loss of life and suffering at home and globally.”

It’s been an ongoing fight. Vaccine manufacturers have argued intellectual property rights are not the problem, but advocates note it’s not enough for companies to promise not to pursue their patent rights. 

“Unless countries cooperate and share medical technology to speed production, there simply will not be sufficient supply of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for many countries — particularly developing countries — to manage COVID-19. Many countries may not have access to widespread COVID-19 vaccination until as late as 2024,” they wrote.

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