Skip to Main Content

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.


An alternative submitted last week by the European Union, which stopped short of waving patent rights, will also be negotiated. To increase equitable vaccine distribution, the EU instead suggested limiting export restrictions, voluntary licensing, sharing expertise, tiered pricing, and making it easier for countries to use existing rules to override patents in some cases, among other moves.

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free!


Create a display name to comment

This name will appear with your comment

There was an error saving your display name. Please check and try again.