WASHINGTON (April 15, 2021) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) today called on U.S. President Joseph R. Biden to support the temporary waiver of patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines as currently proposed at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Indian and South African governments, along with 175 former heads of state and governments, WTO member states, and Nobel laureates are calling on Biden to support the waiver that would relax patent rules in order to boost vaccine supplies for the world.
“We are repeating the tragic errors that happened with HIV when the world delayed for ten years the distribution of safe and effective HIV treatment to low- and middle-income countries while people living with HIV in developed countries enjoyed the benefits of life-saving treatment. Millions of people with HIV died needlessly,” said Terri Ford, Chief of Global Policy & Advocacy for AHF.
Every day that the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and other high-income countries block this temporary waiver is another victory for the virus. Lethal mutations and variants of this deadly virus will take hold and spread like wildfire across the globe to unvaccinated populations. Granting the waiver will accelerate vaccine production and distribution. Many governments have pleaded with the drug industry to grant waivers for local production and have been told ‘no.’
In blocking this temporary patent waiver, the pharmaceutical industry’s hired guns have their foot on the necks of billions of people around the globe who are at risk for infection. “Mr. President, approve the patent waiver now!” said Ford. “Relying on the current geographically concentrated drug industry controlled global production and supply system will guarantee a devastating result for billions of people and will result in a never-ending pandemic.”
According to the advocacy group Progressive International:
- By a greater than 2-to-1 margin, Americans want President Biden to support an emergency suspension of WTO rules that would enable a global scale-up in COVID-19 vaccine and treatment production.
- Arcane rules at the WTO that put “intellectual property” for the drug industry ahead of public health are getting in the way of efforts to increase global production of COVID-19 vaccines, test kits and medications.
- Most of the world’s governments already support this “TRIPS waiver.” It’s also supported by over 170 former heads of state and government and Nobel laureates.