The Top United States negotiator will begin talks with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that are keeping critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from being distributed worldwide, multiple White House officials said on Sunday.
The White House has been under intense pressure from lawmakers at home and governments abroad to join an effort to waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poorer countries can begin to produce their own generic versions of the shots to vaccinate their populations.
The U.S. has been criticized for focusing first on vaccinating Americans, particularly as its vaccine supply begins to outpace demand and doses approved for use elsewhere in the world but not in the U.S. sit idle.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will be starting talks with the trade organization “on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared,” said White House chief of staff Ron Klain.
Klain and national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the administration will have more to say on the matter in the coming days.
Sullivan said the administration believes pharmaceutical companies “should be supplying at scale and at cost to the entire world so that there is no barrier to everyone getting vaccinated.”
Klain said the U.S. has sent India enough of the raw materials it needs to make 20 million vaccine doses immediately. India is battling a deadly new surge in coronavirus infections and deaths.
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