A majority of House Democrats on Tuesday signed a letter to President Joe Biden calling on the White House to temporarily waive patents and other intellectual property protections preventing developing countries from mass-producing COVID-19 vaccines.
The letter, written by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) With the support of 109 colleagues, presents Biden with the opportunity to save lives and improve the global image of the battered United States under administration. Donald Trump.
Biden has so far refused to lift U.S. opposition to the World Trade Organization, or the WTO, even considering a temporary waiver of protections for drugmakers.
“Your administration has an incredible opportunity to reverse the damage done by the Trump administration to our nation’s global reputation and restore US leadership in public health on the world stage,” the letter said. “To end the pandemic as quickly as possible and save the lives of Americans and people around the world, we call on you to reverse Trump’s stance and announce US support for the WTO. [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property] renounce.”
The signatories of the letter span the ideological spectrum and include a number of moderate Democrats in the swing seats, including Reps Jared Golden of Maine and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.
There are also puzzling absences. Of the 93-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, 22 did not sign the letter.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, or the TRIPS Agreement, obliges WTO member countries to respect patents and other intellectual property rules that effectively grant US and European pharmaceutical companies monopolies. on the manufacture of drugs.
The richest nations of the world and the drugmakers based in these countries insist that the temporary abolition or deactivation of global intellectual property regimes will not instantly give developing countries the technological know-how and the raw materials. necessary for the production of vaccines.
But these developing countries, led by India and South Africa, argue that while the waiver alone is not sufficient for an adequate global vaccine supply, it is at least a necessary precondition.
As it stands, the voluntary arrangements the United States and its allies have put in place to solicit vaccine donations and technology transfers have proven to be largely inadequate to provide vaccines to low-income countries. India, in particular, is struggling to dispose of corpses as the pandemic reaches deadly new heights.
Also, with COVID-19 constantly changing, supporters of the waiver stress that the United States has a vested interest in producing and administering as many doses of the vaccine as possible, as quickly as possible.
“Biden is getting very good marks – even from many Republicans – on how he took COVID,” said Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch at Public Citizen. “All of this positivity and health gains could be lost if they’re not careful and a vaccine-resistant variant ends up brewing elsewhere, inevitably spreading around the world and we all find ourselves locked in again.”
Schakowsky’s letter is the latest in a series of efforts by Congressional Democrats, progressive groups and global humanitarian to push Biden closer to supporting a waiver.
In the Senate, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Also sent a letter with Biden approving the patent waiver, garnering support from nine other members of the Democratic Senate caucus. Central central senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) has expressed openness at the idea.
Terminally ill progressive activist Ady Barkan on Thursday posted a video calling on Biden to stay true to a promise.
In Barkan’s video, he plays a clip of a pre-election on-camera interview with Biden in which Biden told Barkan his support for waiving the COVID-19 vaccine patents that prevent mass production of the vaccine.
“Absolutely, positively,” Biden responded when asked to commit to the waiver. “It’s the only human thing to do in the world.”
Biden promised to make the vaccines universally available, but declined to commit to the temporary patent waiver. “I think we will be able to share the vaccines as well as the know-how with other countries that really need it,” he said. mentionned end of April.
Many Democrats are reluctant to lift intellectual property rules. Many of them are part of Congress’ 25 first recipients contributions to the campaign of political action committees of the pharmaceutical industry.
Two of those Democrats – Reps Scott Peters (Calif.) And Ron Kind (Wisconsin) – have support requested for a letter supported by a large company expressing its opposition to the patent surrender.
Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), A confidant of Biden and the 16th largest recipient of PAC donations from the pharmaceutical industry in the last election cycle, has been a clear champion of patents.
“A central element to being successful in this competition is to continue with our protected property right to a constitutionally created patent,” Coons said in a April speech.
Calling all super HuffPost fans!
Sign up to become a Founding Member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost