US supports waiver of property rights on Covid-19 vaccines: USTR

WASHINGTON (May 6): US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said on Wednesday that US supports waiving the intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, which would allow mass production of the currently scarce vaccines in other parts of the world.

The USTR stressed the need for extraordinary measures to meet extraordinary challenges, Yonhap news agency reported.

"The US supports the waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we'll actively participate in @WTO negotiations to make that happen," she said in a Twitter post. "These extraordinary times and circumstances of call for extraordinary measures."

The remarks from the USTR came shortly after White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said US President Joe Biden has long supported such a waiver to allow mass production of COVID-19 vaccines.

"The president spoke about his support for this type of a waiver back during the campaign," she said in a daily press briefing.

She, however, noted the process of waiving IP protections may take months.

"We are really talking about the US position, as it relates to the WTO process. And that process will take a series of months, and requires a unanimous point of view to move forward," said Psaki.

The US has been asked by many countries, including India, to help ease recent spikes in COVID-19 infections partly due to vaccine shortages.

Yonhap’s report also added that South Korea too has asked the US to provide vaccines to help relieve its temporary vaccine shortage, promising to pay back in vaccines when its purchased doses arrive later in the year.

In his address to Congress last Wednesday, Biden said his country will be an "arsenal" for vaccines for the world.

So far, the US has committed to providing 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in the US.

"The Administration's aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible," the USTR said in a separate statement released later in the day.

"As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts -- working with the private sector and all possible partners -- to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution."

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