USA supports vaccine waiver

7 May 2021

The World Health Organization has recently offered its praise to USA President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris for supporting the temporary waiver of intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccines in a bold move to end the pandemic as quickly as possible.

“This is a monumental moment in the fight against COVID-19. The commitment by the President of the United States Joe Biden and Ambassador Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritising the wellbeing of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let's all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced life-saving COVID-19 vaccines.”

The 164 members of the World Trade Organization must vote unanimously in favour of a waiver for it to pass. They meet on Wednesday.

The ANMF joined the international waiver campaign earlier this year, urging the Australian Government to waive provisions of intellectual property laws to allow the production of COVID-19 vaccines to be ramped up and made accessible and affordable to all.

Large pharmaceutical companies are set to profit hugely from the pandemic, with patents allowing them to have the monopoly on vaccine production for two decades and prevent the global scaling up of vaccine production.
“This has already led to deadly delays to the vaccination programs which we are relying on to reduce pressure on us and our hospitals and finally end these lockdowns,’’ said Public Services International, a global union federation of public service workers.

“A waiver would mean vaccines and supplies can be produced cheaply and at huge scale, making them accessible for us to deliver to our communities quickly and across the world.’’

ANMF (SA Branch) nurse Tanya featured in a YouTube video released globally, urging world leaders to support a waiver on patents for COVID-19 vaccines.

The video was released by PSI and features nurses from around the world calling on people to demand our leaders act now on waivers.

On Wednesday, Ambassador Tai issued a statement saying the extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic required extraordinary measures to respond and that the waiving of intellectual property protections on vaccines was needed to help end the pandemic. The United States would, the statement continued, participate in World Trade Organization negotiations to support the temporary waiving of protections, and work with the private sector and other partners to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

Dr Tedros added: “The White House’s support for the temporary waiving of intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccines reflects the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States to work to end this pandemic. But I am not surprised by this announcement. This is what I expected from the Administration of President Biden.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO has been working with partners to scale up the development and distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, a pillar of which is the COVAX Facility for the equitable sharing of vaccines to at-risk people worldwide.

Union Aid Abroad APHEDA and the ACTU have launched a petition calling on the Morrison Government to support a vaccine waiver.