The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has hailed the US administration's decision to support temporary vaccine patent waiver as a "monumental moment" in the global fight against Covid-19.
"This is a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19. The commitment by the President of the United States Joe Biden and Ambassador Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
“I commend the US on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let's all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced life-saving Covid-19 vaccines."
On Wednesday, Ambassador Kai issued a statement saying the extraordinary circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic required extraordinary measures to respond and that the waiving of intellectual property protections on vaccines was needed to help end the pandemic.
The US would, the statement continued, participate in World Trade Organization negotiations to support the temporary waiving of protections, and work with the private sector and other partners to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution.
Dr Tedros said the White House’s support for the temporary waiving of intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines reflects the wisdom and moral leadership of the US to work towards ending the pandemic.
"But I am not surprised by this announcement. This is what I expected from the administration of President Biden.”
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic WHO has been working with partners to scale up the development and distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments through the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, a pillar of which is the COVAX Facility for equitable sharing of vaccines to at-risk people worldwide.