Four top Republican senators have urged US President Joe Biden not to accept a proposal by India and South Africa at the WTO to waive anti-Covid vaccine patents, saying that waiving all rights to intellectual property would end the innovation pipeline and stop the development of new vaccines or boosters to address variants in the virus.
Mike Lee, Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst and Todd Young, in a letter to President Biden, urged him to reject the upcoming proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“India, South Africa and other countries are presenting a proposal at the World Trade Organisation to waive all intellectual property rights for any innovation related to Covid -19," the senators said.
“The proponents of this scheme argue that if we just destroy the intellectual property developed by American companies, we will suddenly have more manufacturers producing Covid -19 vaccines,” they said.
“But the opposite is true. By destroying the intellectual property of every American company that has worked on Covid -19 vaccines and treatments, we would be ending the progress -- started under Operation Warp Speed -- that led to the fastest development of life-saving vaccines in history," the senators wrote.
They alleged that some countries believe that they would benefit from seizing America's intellectual property, but this is a mistake.
The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires countries to provide lengthy monopoly protections for medicines, tests and technologies used to produce them.
“Waiving all rights to intellectual property would end the innovation pipeline and stop the development of new vaccines or boosters to address variants in the virus. It also wouldn't increase the supply of vaccines because of the tremendous time and resources needed to build new manufacturing plants and acquire the knowhow to produce these complex medicines.
“Even if the waiver may temporarily result in a few copycats attempting to produce what American companies developed, it would introduce major quality control problems,” the senators said.
As a global leader and a force for good, the US could do a lot to help other countries overcome the virus, they said.
“But destroying our rights to intellectual property wouldn't advance our mission of fighting the virus -- it would make the problem worse, for America and for the world,” they wrote.
“The end of this pandemic is in sight. More than 50 million Americans have been vaccinated, and cases have declined by more than 75 per cent from their recent high. We stand ready to work with you to bring an end to this deadly crisis and urge you to take a strong stand against this scheme that would halt our progress,” the senators said.
In a statement, the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Centre (GIPC) senior Vice president Patrick Kilbride said the proposals to waive intellectual property rights are misguided and a distraction from the real work of reinforcing supply chains and assisting countries to procure, distribute and administer vaccines to billions of the world’s citizens.
“Diminishing intellectual property rights would make it more difficult to quickly develop and distribute vaccines or treatments in the future pandemics the world will face,” he said.
Early this week, hundreds of American civil society organisations and three top Congressmen urged Biden not to block the waiver to Covid -19 vaccines at the WTO, a move they said would boost the treatment of coronavirus patients worldwide.
“The Covid -19 pandemic knows no borders and the need for vaccine development and dissemination across the globe is critically important. The TRIPS waiver raised by India and South Africa at the WTO would help the global community move forward in defeating the scourge of Covid -19 by making diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines available in developing countries,” Congressman Rosa DeLauro, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters at a news conference.