The top trade representative in the United States will begin talks with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on how to spread COVID-19 vaccines more widely, as the country is increasingly under pressure to help other countries obtain much-needed samples.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain declared on Sunday that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai would hold discussions with the World Trade Organization “on how US can get the doses more broadly circulated, more extensively licensed, more broadly shared”.
“We’ll have more to say about it in the coming days,” Klain said in an interview with CBS News program Face the Nation.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s government has turned up to abandon intellectual property rights to much-needed coronavirus vaccines so more countries can produce doses.
The U.S., which has the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the world, has accelerated vaccinations of its own people this year, with nearly 56 percent of adults having suffered at least one sting so far, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. and prevention (CDC) data.
But many other countries have failed to vaccinate their population quickly, amid a global shortage of vaccines and other challenges – and public health experts say the U.S. needs to do more to promote the global vaccine.
Last month, International Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) urged international medical charities to stop rich countries blocking patent releases for COVID-19 vaccines to help low-income countries secure doses.
The U.S. said last week that it was weighing its options to maximize global vaccine production and supply at the lowest cost, including supporting a proposed waiver of intellectual property rights, but that no decision had been taken.
Biden’s national safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Sunday that the administration believes pharmaceutical companies “should provide on a large scale and at the expense of the whole world so that there is no obstacle to everyone being vaccinated”.