U.S. Trade Chief Tai Says COVID-19 Recovery Depends on Addressing Global Vaccine Inequity

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WASHINGTON: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Tuesday May 4 that it was necessary to make vaccines more widely available around the world to end the coronavirus pandemic and foster economic recovery.

Speaking at a Council of the Americas conference, Tai said the world has made real progress in ending the pandemic, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“This includes the dissemination of the vaccine and the fight against the global inequity in access to vaccines,” she said. “It’s not just a public health requirement. Our economic recovery depends on it.”

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Tai is due to discuss developing country demands for a World Trade Organization waiver of intellectual property rights over coronavirus vaccines at a WTO General Council meeting later this week.

She has met with leaders of major vaccine manufacturers in recent days to discuss the waiver proposal and ways to boost vaccine production and distribution. .

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on Sunday that Tai would “start discussions on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely authorized, more widely shared,” adding that more than details would be provided in the coming days.

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Liberal Democrats in Congress pressured President Joe Biden’s administration to support waiving vaccine intellectual property, arguing it would help save lives and put people first over profits from vaccines. pharmaceutical companies.

But the pharmaceutical industry opposes the proposed waiver as being too broad and setting a precedent that would erode incentives to develop future vaccines.

A dozen Republicans in the House of Representatives wrote to Tai on Tuesday urging him to “continue to oppose” the waiver of intellectual property rights, arguing that it would not significantly improve vaccine availability.

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“The scope of the requested waiver is too broad and unjustified in light of the economic damage it would cause and the negligible benefits it would bring,” wrote the members, led by Republican Darrell Issa, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. from the room.

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