Manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines on traded lower on Thursday as the Biden administration announced support for temporarily waiving intellectual patent protections for leading COVID vaccines in a bid to increase global supplies as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge worldwide.
The Biden administration's move comes as many mid- to low-income countries struggle to collect or distribute enough vaccines as their national coronavirus infection rates surge to their highest levels partially due to new, highly contagious COVID-19 variants. This unequal pandemic juxtaposition between richer nations like the U.S. working to vaccinate most of its population as poorer nations like India struggle to vaccinate their most vulnerable has lead to criticism from global health groups like the World Health Organization, calling it "vaccine nationalism."
"This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. 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," said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in a statement on Wednesday.
"The administration's aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible," the statement continued. "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. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines."
The proposal that the Biden administration is backing was first introduced before the World Trade Organization last year by South Africa and India. The controversial proposal calls for the temporary pause of all patents, industrial designs, copyrights, and protection of trade secrets for all COVID-19 vaccines to help countries struggling to manufacture vaccines produce the life-saving doses as soon as possible.
Shares of vaccine makers including BioNTech