Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Waiver

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The news cycle remains dominated by COVID-19 issues.  One thing we’re watching is whether and to what extent the World Trade Organization (WTO) will waive intellectual property (IP) protections for vaccines in an attempted effort to increase global access to vaccines.

A broad proposal for waiver on enforcement of IP related to COVID-19 prevention, containment, and treatment, requested by India and South Africa and supported by many developing countries, has been pending for months at the WTO.  The United States originally opposed the waiver but, just in May, the Biden administration announced that it would support a temporary waiver on IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines (a seemingly narrower waiver than that proposed).  Others like the United Kingdom and European Union members still continue to oppose a waiver, with concerns of whether a waiver will actually boost vaccine supply.  In fact, in early June, the European Union proposed its own plan to increase global COVID-19 vaccine distribution, focusing on increasing production, decreasing export restrictions, and issuing limited licenses.

During discussions in early June, the WTO council overseeing the issue sought the competing proposals and an agreement from the members by the next meeting in mid-July.  We will be watching to see how this plays out.

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