President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, a stance immediately applauded by WHO boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros called Biden’s move a “MONUMENTAL MOMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST #COVID19” on Twitter, and said it reflected “the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States.”
In backing vaccine copyright waive, Biden bowed to mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries.
However, he angered pharmaceutical companies, which have made humongous profits selling vaccines.
Biden voiced his support for a waiver – a sharp reversal of the previous U.S. position – in remarks to reporters.
His position was followed swiftly by a statement from his top trade negotiator, Katherine Tai, who backed negotiations at the World Trade Organization.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” Tai said in a statement.
The statement coincided with growing concern that big outbreaks in India could allow the rise of vaccine-resistant strains of the deadly virus, undermining a global recovery.
Shares in vaccine makers Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) dropped several percent in regular trade, although Pfizer Inc (PFE.N)stock fell only slightly.
Pharmaceutical companies working on vaccines have reported sharp revenue and profit gains during the crisis.
The industry’s biggest lobby group warned that Biden’s unprecedented step would undermine the companies’ response to the pandemic and compromise safety.