EU Chief Ready to Discuss Vaccine Ownership

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday the European Union (EU) is willing to discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, one day after U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration indicated it would support it.

In a virtual speech, the head of the EU executive branch said the EU is “ready to discuss any proposals that addresses the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner."

In a statement Wednesday, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the decision, saying "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.”

Waiving vaccine patents was among Biden’s campaign promises, and he had been under pressure to follow through.

In her speech, Von der Leyen said the pandemic was a global health crisis “and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures."

The European Union, Britain, Switzerland and some other European countries — many of them home to large pharmaceutical companies — have opposed the waiver. They argue it would undermine incentives for companies that have produced vaccines in record time to do so in a future pandemic.

South Africa and India made the initial vaccine waiver proposal at the World Trade Organization in October, gathering support from many developing countries that say it is a vital step to make vaccines more widely available.

Source: Voice of America

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