Biden throws support behind waiving intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines to allow hard-hit countries like India and South Africa to make copycat shots

 The Biden administration is throwing its support behind efforts to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to speed the end of the pandemic.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the government's position in a Wednesday statement, amid World Trade Organization talks over easing global trade rules to enable more countries to produce more of the life-saving vaccines.

'The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,' Tai said in the statement.

But she cautioned that it would take time to reach the required global 'consensus' to waive the protections under WTO rules, and U.S. officials said it would not have an immediate effect on the global supply of COVID-19 shots.

Until now, the WTO's push to loosen intellectual property protections have been blocked by a handful of nations, including the U.S., the U.K and the E.U.

More than 100 countries, NGOs and many public health experts have insisted that lifting the burden of these protections is essential to getting shots to the unvaccinated world. 

But others say waiving intellectual property rights sets a dangerous precedent - and that the call to do so from countries like India and South Africa - both hard-hit by the pandemic - could be a thinly veiled ploy to pad their own profits off of others' inventions. 

Waiving intellectual property protections could cut into profits for vaccine makers like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, for whom business has boomed amid the pandemic. 

On Tuesday, Pfizer said it had made $3.46 billion in first-quarter vaccine sales. The New York Times estimated that would come out to about $900 million in pretax profits from vaccines in the past three months alone. 

Johnson & Johnson reported $100 million in vaccine sales - despite the 11-day pause on the shot in the U.S. - and Moderna will report earnings on Thursday. 

Shares Pfizer fell from a day-peak of $41.08 to a low of $39.12 on Wednesday, before rebounding slightly to $39.83 after the bell. 

J&J shares closed at $167.07, down 0.42 percent, while Moderna's share price dropped 6.19 percent to $162.84.  

Protestors called on the US to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines so the formulas for shots could be shared with other countries to make their own versions

Protestors called on the US to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines so the formulas for shots could be shared with other countries to make their own versions 

The Biden administration said Wednesday it supports waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines so that other countries can make their own versions of the shots

The Biden administration said Wednesday it supports waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines so that other countries can make their own versions of the shots  

Protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to call on the Biden administration to 'free the vaccine.' 

The move is controversial and viewed with suspicion by some, especially Republicans and some moderate Democrats who are worried other nations have the means to make or acquire enough vaccines, but just want unfettered access to companies' inventions. 


House Democrats who received the most donations from the pharmaceutical industry are declining to support a push to release the patents on COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, even as Pfizer reports soaring revenue from its vaccine.

Pfizer on Tuesday reported $3.46 billion in first-quarter vaccine sales in all but three countries. BioNTech, which which it splits vaccine costs and profit, will report the remaining revenue on May 10. 

The company almost doubled its sales projections for the COVID-19 vaccine this year, from $15 billion to roughly $26 billion, citing strong demand for its vaccine.

Meanwhile, the nine House Democrats among Congress's top 25 recipients of donations from pharmaceutical industry PACs have all declined to sign on to a letter urging the Biden administration to waive intellectual property rights for the vaccine to let developing countries produce their own supply, according to the Huffington Post 

Pfizer has seen its share price soar over the past year. Shares stagnated at $39.97 on Wednesday

Pfizer has seen its share price soar over the past year. Shares stagnated at $39.97 on Wednesday

Shares for J&J dipped slightly late Wednesday on the heels of the Biden administration's announcement

Shares for J&J dipped slightly late Wednesday on the heels of the Biden administration's announcement 

Moderna's shares tumbled by 6.19 percent on Wednesday to $162.84 ahead of its Thursday earnings report

Moderna's shares tumbled by 6.19 percent on Wednesday to $162.84 ahead of its Thursday earnings report 


A total of 110 of the 218 House Democrats have signed the letter, which Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, plans to present to President Joe Biden on Tuesday, the outlet reported. It was not clear whether any Republicans were invited to sign on.

The letter asks Biden to heed the appeals of India, South Africa, and other developing countries and temporarily lift Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that prevent them from manufacturing patented COVID-19 vaccines or treatments.

Such a move could potentially cut into the profits of New York-based Pfizer and Massachusetts-based Moderna, but proponents say it would be a vital step to ending the pandemic and assisting hard-hit developing countries.

According to the Huffington Post, Democratic Reps. Scott Peters and Ron Kind, both on the top-25 list for pharma donations, have even asked colleagues to support an opposing letter asking Biden not to wave the intellectual property rules. 

Rep. Scott Peters
Rep. Ron Kind

Democratic Reps. Scott Peters (left) and Ron Kind (right), both on the top-25 list for pharma donations, have even asked colleagues to support an opposing letter asking Biden not to wave the intellectual property rules

The other Democrats on the list who have not signed the letter are House Energy and Commerce Committee chair Frank Pallone of New Jersey, House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal of Massachusetts, and Reps. Anna Eshoo of California, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Raul Ruiz of California.

While Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca promised they would make their shots at no profit, Moderna's CEO signaled that it would only take a minimal profit for the shots, and Pfizer's said it would 'make a very, very minimal profit,' in a 2020 interview with Time. 

But in Tuesday's earnings report, Pfizer said that it earned $4.9 billion in the first three months of the year thanks in part to strong demand for its COVID-19 vaccine. 

Some patient advocacy and consumer groups now accuse COVID-19 vaccine makers of profiteering as they've only pledged to stick to nonprofit prices until the pandemic emergency ends. Some want patents suspended to enable poor countries to get cheaper vaccines sooner.

On a conference call Tuesday, Pfizer noted its three price tiers for the vaccine, depending on each country´s financial situation. In the U.S., Pfizer charges $19.50 for each dose, far below what Prevnar and many other vaccines cost here.

Pfizer reported quarterly net income of $4.88 billion, or 86 cents per share, on Tuesday. That was up from $3.36 billion, or 60 cents per share, in the same period last year, when the global coronavirus pandemic began triggering lockdowns, and doctor visits, diagnostic tests and new prescriptions for other medicines dropped significantly.

Adjusted earnings jumped 48 percent to $5.26 billion, or 93 cents per share, far above the 79 cents Wall Street was expecting. Revenue was $14.58 billion, up 45 percent and also well above forecasts of $13.49 billion. 

Moderna is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Thursday before the opening bell. 

Biden throws support behind waiving intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines to allow hard-hit countries like India and South Africa to make copycat shots Biden throws support behind waiving intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines to allow hard-hit countries like India and South Africa to make copycat shots Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:35 Rating: 5

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