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US Supports Patent Waivers

The Biden Administration has announced its support for a proposal to waive intellectual property protections for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, NPR reports.

According to the Verge, South Africa and India previously called on the World Trade Organization to suspend such protections, but other countries, including the US, stymied the effort. It adds that South Africa and India — India is currently facing an explosion in COVID-19 cases — have redoubled their effort, and now have US support. Backers of the proposal say it would enable countries to manufacture their own versions of the vaccines.

"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, says in a statement. "The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines."

The announcement was applauded by the World Health Organization, according to the Guardian, and Doctors Without Borders, the Associated Press adds. The AP also notes that French President Emmanuel Macron has voiced his support of the plan, though has some doubts as to how effective it will be.

The pharmaceutical industry has similarly said that waiving patent protections won't lead to increased vaccine production, and argues it would reduce incentives to pursue such work, the AP says.