Vaccine Patent Rights Targeted By White House, WTO, Brazil

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Sen. Bernie Sanders said the matter is a “moral” responsibility for the U.S. to waive key covid patents. Brazil’s senate, meanwhile, passed a bill allowing a temporary ban on patents for medications that could be used to fight the virus.

US To Launch Trade Talks On COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

The U.S. top trade negotiator will begin talks with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from being more widely distributed worldwide, two White House officials said Sunday. The White House has been under pressure from lawmakers at home and governments abroad to join an effort to waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poorer countries can begin to produce their own generic versions of the shots to vaccinate their populations. (Superville, 5/2)

The Week:
Sanders: Waiving COVID-19 Vaccine Patents Both Practical And ‘Moral’ Responsibility For U.S.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday said it’s not only a “moral responsibility” for the United States to help vaccinate the rest of the world — including India which is experiencing a devastating surge — against COVID-19. It’s “also in our own self-interest,” Sanders argued, because otherwise “this pandemic … is going to come back and bite us at one point or another.” To avoid that, he told NBC News’ Chuck Todd, “we should deal with this issue through the World Trade Organization of protecting the intellectual property rights of the drug companies.” In other words, Sanders wants to waive patents so poorer countries can produce their own vaccines, rather than relying only on excess supply from wealthier nations. (5/2)

What To Know About The Growing Debate Over COVID-19 Vaccine Patents And Equity

The ability of wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom to place huge orders for vaccines before companies had even proved their efficacy has attracted critics since the earliest months of the pandemic ― and the results they warned about are playing out now. Wealthy countries are at the front of the vaccine supply line and have essentially cleared the shelves: High-income and upper-middle-income countries have secured more than 6 billion vaccine doses, according to data provided to the journal Nature by the Duke University Global Health Innovation Center. Two major manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, are also American companies, giving the U.S. a leg up. (Boboltz, 5/2)

In related news about patents —

Los Angeles Times:
Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Refused To Join WHO’s C-TAP For Vaccines. Now The India Surge Is Causing Crisis

Pfizer and Moderna — backed by the Trump administration — were concerned about protecting the trade secrets of their mRNA technology and refused to participate. As a result, the job of manufacturing vaccine for much of the world fell largely on a single producer in India, the Serum Institute, a central manufacturer for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca. Now facing its own COVID-19 catastrophe, India has all but halted its vaccine exports, leaving dozens of mostly poor countries it supplies in the lurch — a problem that experts said could have easily been avoided had vaccine makers signed on to C-TAP. (Baumgaertner, 4/30)

Brazilian Senate Votes To Suspend Patents In A Bid To Boost Vaccine Access

After a year of politicking, the Brazilian senate passed a bill that would permit the government to temporarily suspend any and all patents for medical products that could be used to fight Covid-19, as well as any future public health emergency declared by Brazilian authorities or the World Health Organization. Any license would be valid only for the duration of such an emergency. The legislation now goes to the lower house of Congress, although it remains unclear if it will have the same level of support. (Silverman, 4/30)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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