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07May

United States agrees to vaccine patent waiver

United States agrees to vaccine patent waiver

The United States has agreed to back a waiver by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on vaccine patents to boost supply as virus cases soar worldwide. The waiver was first proposed by India and South Africa, who were joined by over 60 countries in agreement. Over the last six months, this cohort of countries have been petitioning for the waiver to be accepted which would allow for greater supplies of vaccine stocks for nations struggling to cope with infection waves.

In announcing the new policy, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that "extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures". The US is now to engage with the WTO in deliberations over the waiver, and Ms Tai warned that this could take some time. The temporary waiver was agreed by US President Joe Biden following pressure from Democrats in his party to act on it.

If approved, supporters say, the waiver would allow production of vaccines to be ramped up and provide more affordable doses for less wealthy countries. Previously, the UK, EU and Donald Trump’s previous US presidential administration were opposed to the idea of the waiver. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said "the EU is also ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner". French President Emmanuel Macron has changed his mind on the matter, saying that he is now “absolutely in favour” of the move.

A UK government spokesperson said the UK was "working with WTO members to resolve this issue" and was "in discussions with the US and WTO members to facilitate increased production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines".

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