On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden showed his support for waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, to bow to mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries.
But his decision angered drug companies.
Biden expressed support for a temporary waiver of rights, in a radical change from the previous US position, after a speech at the White House, quickly followed by an official statement from chief trade negotiator Catherine Tay.
“This is a global health crisis, and the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for exceptional measures,” Tai said in a statement.
Her comments came amid growing concern that the spread of the disease in India could allow vaccine-resistant strains of the deadly virus to emerge, which could undermine the global recovery.
Shares of a number of companies manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines retreated after the news circulated. And two of the largest American vaccine manufacturers are Pfizer and Moderna.
Biden’s move won praise from WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who described it on Twitter as “a historic moment in the battle against Covid-19.”
A senior administration official said the administration had informed the pharmaceutical companies, which had made significant revenues and profits during the crisis, of their plans ahead of the announcement.
And the largest pharmaceutical lobby group has warned that Biden’s unprecedented move will undermine the companies’ response to the pandemic and put safety at risk.
Biden, who supported the idea of waiving rights during the 2020 election campaign, placed fighting the Corona virus at the top of his administration’s priorities.
The introduction of vaccines in the United States led to a decrease in the number of cases and deaths.