WHO Director-General commends United States decision to support temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday praised the commitment by the United States administration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris to support the temporary waiver of intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccines in a bold move to end the pandemic as quickly as possible.

President Joe Biden walks with Vice President Kamala Harris across the West Executive Avenue at the White House Monday, March 29, 2021, following the President’s remarks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) 
President Joe Biden walks with Vice President Kamala Harris across the West Executive Avenue at the White House Monday, March 29, 2021, following the President’s remarks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“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 Dr Tedros.

“I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being 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.”

On Wednesday, Ambassador Kai 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 COVD-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.

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