Relaxing intellectual property rules would allow more countries to quickly manufacture vaccines, proponents argue.
Ten Democratic and progressive senators are urging US President Joe Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their populations.
The lawmakers, in a letter delivered to the White House on Thursday, wrote that Biden should “prioritize people over pharmaceutical company profits” and support the temporary waiver that could pave the way for generic or other manufacturers to make more vaccines, particularly in low- and middle-income countries who have struggled to gain access to doses.
The group comprises independent Senator Bernie Sanders, along with Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Edward Markey, Jeff Merkley, Chris Van Hollen and Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
“Simply put, we must make vaccines, testing, and treatments accessible everywhere if we are going to crush the virus anywhere,” the letter read.
More than 100 nations support a temporary waiver and the Biden administration has said it is studying the issue.
Opponents, including pharmaceutical companies, worry that it would set a dangerous precedent in allowing scientists around the globe to copy US and European companies’ research – some of which was funded by the US government – long before patents expire.
The Trump administration had opposed calls for the waiver.
The legislators’ appeal to Biden came after a group of 170 former world leaders and Nobel laureates earlier this week sent a similar letter to Biden urging him to support a temporary waiver of the WTO’s intellectual property rules, which has been proposed by India and South Africa.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly three million people worldwide, including more than 170,000 in India and more than 50,000 in South Africa, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.