(Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday supported waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, bowing to mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries, but angering pharmaceutical firms.
Following are reactions to the latest developments.
WHO CHIEF TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS
Biden’s move is a “MONUMENTAL MOMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST #COVID19”, reflecting “the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States”, Tedros said on Twitter.
GAVI, THE GLOBAL VACCINE ALLIANCE
“We recognise also the significance of the (Biden) administration’s commitment to work towards increasing raw material production which will have an immediate impact on alleviating current global supply constraints.
“Gavi urges now that in the interests of global equitable access the US supports manufacturers to transfer not only IP but also know-how in a bid to urgently boost global production.”
SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT
“President (Cyril) Ramaphosa welcomes the position adopted by the United States as an important reinforcement of a campaign led by South Africa and India on behalf of emerging economies that face vaccine shortages and production challenges.
“The anticipated temporary waiver provides a global response to COVID-19. The proposal establishes a global solution to enhance manufacturing and boost supply capacity, and enables coordination and access to information currently under patent protection.
“For countries that do not currently have manufacturing capacity on certain medical technologies, the waiver could open up more supply options and avoid countries being reliant on only one or two suppliers. Where supply capacity currently exists, it can be repurposed to COVID vaccine production and in this way improve the supply available to all nations.”
FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON
“I am very much in favour of opening up intellectual property. We must obviously make this vaccine a global public good. The priority, today, is certainly to give doses. In the short term, this is what will allow us to vaccinate people. And the second thing is to produce, in partnership with the poorest countries.”
GERMAN HEALTH MINISTER JENS SPAHN
“We expressly share the U.S. president’s goal. Providing the whole world with vaccine is the only sustainable way out of this pandemic. We will not be safe until everyone in the world is safe.
“There are some ideas on how we can make this happen. Above all, the further expansion of production facilities is crucial. In addition, the countries of the world where vaccine is produced must be prepared to export it to others. The EU is ready to do this in word and deed. We look forward to the U.S. now being as well.”
THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF PHARMACEUTICAL MANUFACTURERS & ASSOCIATIONS (IFPMA)
“Waiving patents of COVID-19 vaccines will not increase production nor provide practical solutions needed to battle this global health crisis. On the contrary, it is likely to lead to disruption.
“The only way to ensure quick scaling up of and equitable vaccine access to all those in need remains pragmatic and constructive dialogue with the private sector.”
BRITAIN’S BIOINDUSTRY ASSOCIATION CEO STEVE BATES
“This is not a panacea. Just handing countries (and) governments a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards, infrastructure and sizable workforce with the high skills needed to deliver safe and effective vaccines will not speedily deliver help to all those that need it.
“IP rights weren’t the practical problem to scaling up global vaccine production and waiving them isn’t a simple solution to what is a wicked problem. The innovative life sciences industry has been a strong partner to get us where we are today, with UK collaboration leading the world in AstraZeneca/Oxford University in production and distribution globally.
“Given that text-based talk at the WTO will now proceed for months – my question to those who see this as the solution is how and when will this result in additional doses being administered around the world?”
RICHARD TORBETT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE ASSOCIATION OF THE BRITISH PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
“Companies have been working with international partners for months to scale up the supply of vaccines, voluntarily licensing and transferring technology where it safe to do so. The real challenges are a lack of advanced manufacturing skills and critical raw materials.
“Globally we must now focus on sharing excess doses of vaccines, maintaining the free movement of raw materials and properly funding COVAX – all of which the UK government has committed to doing.
“We share the goal of getting COVID-19 vaccines to the people who need them as fast as possible, but waiving IP is not the solution. In the short term, it will hinder vaccine scale-up and in the long term significantly impact global investment into new vaccines and medicines, including for future pandemics.”
AUSTRALIAN TRADE MINISTER DAN TEHAN
“We welcome this positive development and look forward to working with the U.S. and others to find solutions that boost the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Close collaboration between governments and vaccine manufacturers will remain vital.”
NEW ZEALAND TRADE MINISTER DAMIEN O’CONNOR
“New Zealand supports the waiver of IP protections on vaccines as an important part of our collective efforts to address the human catastrophe of the pandemic.
“We are also working in APEC, the WTO and other fora to address other elements of vaccine supply issues including through the supply chains that are limiting the availability of vaccines regionally and globally.”
ITALIAN MINISTER OF HEALTH ROBERTO SPERANZA
“Biden’s breakthrough on free access to vaccine patents for all is an important step forward. Europe must also play its part. This pandemic has taught us that we can only win together.”
FATIMA HASSAN, DIRECTOR OF SOUTH AFRICA’S HEALTH JUSTICE INITIATIVE:
“These are the first major steps to vaccinate the world against COVID-19. The pressure from many individuals and groups has yielded far-reaching results with the U.S. government supporting the TRIPS waiver on vaccines.
“Now, text-based negotiations – as called for by South Africa and India – must be expedited and transparent, and not deferential to pharmaceutical companies – without watering down the original waiver proposal.”
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
“It is crucial that the waiver not just apply to preventative vaccines, but it should also cover other medical tools for COVID-19, including treatments for people who fall ill and diagnostics to help curb the spread, as originally proposed seven months ago.
“While this decision means other manufacturers will have the information they need from pharmaceutical corporations – and the legal permission – to help scale up global supply and get more shots into the arms of people everywhere, this won’t happen immediately.
“For the remaining countries that continue to oppose the WTO waiver…, they must drop their objections and put people’s health before pharmaceutical profits, and waive IP on all COVID-19 medical tools, including vaccines.”
OXFAM HEALTH POLICY MANAGER ANNA MARRIOTT
“In this moment of crisis, we applaud the decision of President Biden and his administration to pursue a new path that prioritizes public health over private profits.
“This is a testament to the widespread public movement calling for an end to vaccine monopolies.
“We are at a crucial point in the fight against coronavirus, yet we have remained essentially at the mercy of a handful of giant pharmaceutical corporations that have monopoly control over the life-saving technologies we all need. The UK shouldn’t be left standing on the wrong side of history and must join the U.S. in doing the right thing for humanity.
“We will now look to the White House for leadership in a strong WTO outcome, in urgently insisting on the transfer of technologies through the World Health Organization COVID-19 Technology Access pool, and in investing strategically to build up regional vaccine hubs to defeat this and future pandemics.”
GORDON BROWN, U.N. GLOBAL AMBASSADOR AND FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER
“I welcome the American decision on temporary patent waiver which makes the COVID-19 vaccine accessible. Now we must make the vaccine affordable. No one is safe until everyone is safe and on June 11, at the G7 meeting, the richest countries should make the momentous decision to pay two thirds of the $60 billion cost of vaccinating the world.”
(Reporting by Reuters staffEditing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)