“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,” Tai said in a statement.
She added that the United States would actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization to make the waiver happen. “Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”
Tai said the Biden administration’s priority had been to first immunize Americans and then extend to other countries in need.
"The administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible," Tai said. "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."
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the largest industry lobbying group, slammed the move.
“In the midst of a deadly pandemic, the Biden Administration has taken an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety. This decision will sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines," PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl said in a statement.
The United States has administered 248 million coronavirus vaccines to date, with 106 million Americans or 32.3 percent of the population being fully immunized from the virus.