WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is throwing its support behind efforts to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to speed the end of the pandemic.
United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the government's position in a Wednesday statement, amid World Trade Organization talks over easing global trade rules to enable more countries to produce more of the life-saving vaccines.
“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 the statement.
But she cautioned that it would take time to reach the required global “consensus” to waive the protections under WTO rules, and U.S. officials said it would not have an immediate effect on the global supply of COVID-19 shots.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures," said Tai. “The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible."
Tai's announcement comes hours after WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spoke to a closed-door meeting of ambassadors from developing and developed countries that have been wrangling over the issue, but agree on the need for wider access to COVID-19 treatments, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said.
In other developments:
- Many parents and educators are excited over the news that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by next week for youngsters ages 12 to 15.
- Canada’s health regulators say they've become the first to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people as young as 12.
- Teams of experts are projecting COVID-19's toll on the U.S. will fall sharply by the end of July. But they also warn that a “substantial increase” in hospitalizations and deaths is possible if unvaccinated people do not follow basic precautions such as wearing a mask and keeping their distance from others.
- The government’s key COVID-19 relief program for small businesses has run out of money. The Small Business Administration said that the Paycheck Protection Program has been exhausted. As of Sunday, the PPP had given out nearly 10.8 million loans worth more than $780 billion since April of last year.
- The catastrophic wave of Covid-19 in India has prompted donors to send millions of dollars to the country, which Tuesday crossed the grim mark of more than 20 million cases of the killer disease.
- The Yankees and Mets can increase capacity from 20% to 100% at their ballparks for home games starting May 19 — as along as fans are vaccinated against COVID-19. And both teams will be giving away free tickets along with vaccinations.