Petition: U.S. Must Support Patent Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines

TRIPS waiver frees patent protections to support global manufacture of vaccines

Posted on May 4, 2021

an oversized, white prop vaccine with gray chains and a lock around it that say "VACCINE FOR ALL" in red
Supporters of the People's Vaccine participate in a rally for global solidarity against vaccine apartheid in Cambridge, Mass., home to many global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Photo by Zack DeClerck / Partners In Health

Update (May 5, 2021): Pres. Joseph R. Biden’s administration announced their support for the COVID-19 TRIPS waiver. "The Administration's aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible," according to a statement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

To end the COVID-19 pandemic, Pres. Joseph R. Biden’s administration must support the TRIPS waiver.  

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, or TRIPS, waiver is a way to temporarily release patent rights of COVID-19 vaccines and the first step in allowing them to be more widely produced and distributed throughout the globe. This move is critical to ensure that low-income countries, including ones where Partners In Health (PIH) works, have equitable access to vaccines.   

"For generations, the status quo has meant that lifesaving vaccines and drugs reach impoverished countries years or decades after rich ones. It's time for us to give the whole world a fighting chance,” says Justin Mendoza, PIH’s U.S. advocacy manager.  

The provisions in patent law serve a purpose and can be waived during a national emergency, Dr. Joia Mukherjee, PIH’s chief medical officer, explains in an article published by WBUR. In April 2021, more than two million individuals—including politicians, labor, public health, and civil society leaders—signed a petition delivered to Biden, calling for support of the TRIPS waiver that was originally proposed by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in October 2020. In addition to PIH, many other health and health rights NGOs have supported the TRIPS waiver, including Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam International, according to The New York Times.  

The United States has yet to commit. 

However, during the WTO meeting on May 5, Biden has a chance to correct that and support the TRIPS waiver as one key step toward vaccine equity. We urge him to do so. 



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