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In what is being described as a “major breakthrough,” a World Trade Organization council agreed to start formal negotiations over a controversial proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines in hopes of widening global access.

The step came after months of debate over the proposal, which gained significant momentum after the Biden administration last month unexpectedly agreed to support the initiative, which had been met with pushback by the pharmaceutical industry. The about-face occurred as a lack of vaccines in many low-income countries threatened to prolong the pandemic, especially as new variants emerge.

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