President Biden keeps promise to the American People by supporting an IP waiver amidst global emergency, but more action is needed.

May 6, 2021

Contact: Alicia Stromberg, alicia.stromberg@r2haction.org

In July of 2020, Ady Barkan, founder of the Be A Hero asked then-Presidential Candidate Biden the following: 

 

"If the US discovers a vaccine first, will the US commit to sharing that technology with other countries? And will you ensure there are no patents to stand in the way of other countries and companies mass producing those life-saving vaccines?" 

 

Biden responded resolutely, "Absolutely, positively. This is the only humane thing in the world to do." 

 

Yesterday, May 5th, the Biden Administration made an important first step in keeping that promise to Ady and to the world by supporting a temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) barriers to facilitate production of COVID-19 vaccines and enter into textual negotiations on a World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver proposal initiated by South Africa and India. 

 

After almost a year of deadly opposition by the Trump Administration, Right to Health Action applauds President Biden and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai's willingness to step back onto the global stage and show leadership when it is needed most. Now in order to follow through on this commitment, the following steps must be taken immediately: 

 

  1. Textual negotiations around the proposed TRIPS waiver must be transparent, open to civil society input, and must include COVID-19 diagnostics and therapeutics in its purview.

  2. The US government must use all existing executive authorities, such as through the Defense Production Action (DPA), to mobilize government owned IP and know-how from Operation Warp Speed and decades of NIH-funded research to facilitate rapid and thorough global technology transfer, while also pressing US drug manufacturers to do the same through the COVID19-Technology Access Pool.

  3.  The US must allocate at least $10 billion towards domestic production of vaccines, and support global manufacturing scale up.. 

While support for the TRIPS waiver is an essential first step, it is important to remember that the TRIPS waiver itself would only temporarily ensure that international law does not stand in the way of efforts to manufacture, export, and import COVID vaccines and therapeutics. Monopolies are the central bottleneck slowing global vaccinations. Now that progress is being made, the United States must step in and lead a global effort to support rapid scale-up of manufacturing hubs to quickly increase vaccine production and supply.

 

In a recent town hall, Tulika Singh, R2H Action State Captain and PhD Candidate in Virology, said to President Biden, "President Biden, you are a grandfather. And you have suffered the loss of loved ones, as have far, far too many of us now. Voters were moved by your empathy— I know I was. Please show compassion now, and share the vaccines with the billions in need worldwide to bring a decisive end to this pandemic so I can be reunited with my grandfather too."

 

Truly ending this pandemic everywhere will require a Marshall Plan-level whole-of-government response to stop more needless deaths now and when we are faced with the next global pandemic.

 

We acknowledge President Biden for taking this first step towards bringing a decisive end to this pandemic, but now we need him to follow through.

 

Over the last year, activist networks including Right to Health Action, driven in large part by the same networks that mobilized during the HIV/AIDS crisis, organized countless online and (socially distant) in-person demonstrations centering the experience of directly impacted communities and the need for global solidarity to counter vaccine nationalism.

 

These groups orchestrated hundreds of Congressional lobby visits, months of advocacy with the Presidential transition teams, sent more than 70,000 letters to Congress, and countless trainings and media engagements around the world which resulted in 143 members of Congress supporting the People’s Pandemic Prevention Plan, and 110 members of congress calling for US support for a TRIPS Waiver.

 

Thank you to these leaders in India, South Africa, the United States and elsewhere around the world. We stand in solidarity and will continue to push arm-in-arm until people everywhere are safe.

 

ABOUT R2H Action: We are a grassroots movement of scholars, front-line health workers and people who have lost someone to COVID-19. We are organizing to stop the cycle of outbreak-panic-neglect that leaves millions dead in the current wave of accelerating pandemics. Our leaders were involved in previous advocacy campaigns to launch PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. Ebola response, as well as campaigns to ensure more Americans have better, more affordable health care.

 

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