The news yesterday from US trade Ambassador Katherine Tait that the Biden-Harris administration supports waiving IP protections for COVID vaccines is not just welcome, it is laying a stake in the ground for others to follow. The hesitancy of both the EU and UK to support the US places them on the wrong side of history and will not be forgotten (to be clear, being willing to discuss the US plan is not the same thing as supporting it).
As we all know, there is a global shortage of vaccines. Taking action to ensure more people get access is the right thing to do. Full stop. It will also benefit all of us. If we do not get the world vaccinated at the same time, new variants of the virus will arise, which the current vaccines will not be able to protect us against. The US Government recognises this reality and does not want to jeopardise their hugely successful vaccine rollout without playing their part to help the rest of the world. As Ambassador Tait’s tweet said; “These extraordinary times and circumstances…call for extraordinary measures. The US supports the waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we’ll actively participate in WTO negotiations to make it happen.” Notice the choice of words: end the pandemic.
COVID knows no boundaries, does not recognise the nationality of its victims and if we do not have a global approach to vaccinations, we will never bring the virus under control and end the pandemic. If the global North gets vaccinated whilst the Global South does not, this is a tragedy of our own making and we will all ultimately suffer. You might be getting tired of the virus, but the virus is not tired of you.
Tomorrow I will get my first vaccine—my husband too. We are lucky. I want everyone to have the same opportunity to be vaccinated as I have. I hope other countries will follow the US’s lead and make history at the WTO for the sake of all humanity. Thank you, Ambassador Tait.