Brett Wilkins, commondreams.org
As the United States on Wednesday broke with other wealthy nations to support waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, global health leaders applauded President Joe Biden’s administration, while healthcare advocates shifted the focus of their pressure to other countries whose leaders are either undecided or opposed to the move.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a vocal advocate of the waiver, led the worldwide praise of the American policy shift.
“This is a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19,” Tedros said in a statement. “The commitment by… Biden and Ambassador Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges.”
“I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time,” he added. “Now let’s all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines.
Avril Benoît, executive director of the U.S. division of the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders), also welcomed news of the Biden administration’s decision—while pushing the United States to do more.
“MSF applauds the U.S. government’s bold decision to support the waiving of intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines during this time of unprecedented global need,” Benoît said in a statement. “It is crucial that this waiver not just apply to preventative vaccines, but it should also cover other medical tools for Covid-19, including treatments for people who fall ill and diagnostics to help curb the spread, as originally proposed seven months ago.”
“If the U.S. truly wants to end this pandemic, it must also share its surplus vaccines doses with COVAX now and fill the access gap until additional manufactures are able to scale up production,” Benoît added. “The U.S. must also demand that pharma companies that received significant amounts of U.S. taxpayer funding to create these vaccines share the technology and know-how with other capable manufacturers to protect more people worldwide.
Benoît called on other wealthy members of the World Trade Organisation to follow the U.S. lead.
“Countries that continue to oppose the WTO waiver—such as European Union countries, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway, Japan, and Brazil—must now take action, too and decide to put people’s health before pharmaceutical profits and waive IP on all Covid-19 medical tools, including vaccines,” she wrote.
Healthcare advocates turned their attention to those countries after the Biden administration’s announcement, with many eyes on the U.S.’ neighbour to the north. Some of the admonition of Ottawa was deadly serious:
Meanwhile, the world registered more than 800,000 new Covid-19 cases—more than 300,000 of them in India—and nearly 14,000 new deaths on Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.