The Biden Administration Stands Up to Big Pharma for Vaccines (Video)

After Democratic backlash ensued regarding the Biden administration’s decision to maintain the Trump-era cap on refugees permitted to enter the United States, the White House increased the cap.

President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress was loaded with progressive policy proposals that would not have been considered had it not been for relentless pressure from the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party.

Now after calls for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to grant a temporary intellectual property rights waiver for COVID-19 vaccines, the Biden White House sided again with compassion and humanity when it announced its support for the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver.

As COVID-19 rips through the Global South, the WTO hails the decision a “monumental moment.”

Achal Prabhala, project coordinator for AccessIBSA, an organization campaigning for access to medicines in India, Brazil, and South Africa, said:

“The proposal is monumental because what it does is it allows for more vaccines to be manufactured in the world.”

This is an enormous step in combatting what many are calling “vaccine inequity” that has glutted wealthy countries, like the United States, with COVID-19 vaccines while depriving poorer nations.

This is also an enormous step, at long last, in taking on “Big Pharma” and the profits it has been raking in.

The day before the White House proclaimed its approval of the waiver, drug maker Pfizer, boasted it expects to make up to $26 billion in COVID-19 sales.

Pharmaceutical lobbying group Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) head, Michelle McMurry-Heath, argued:

“Handing needy countries a recipe book without the ingredients, safeguards, and sizable workforce needed will not help people waiting for the vaccine.”

But once again, the United States is asserting the leadership absent the past four years.

Although not advocating waving patents, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated in a speech at the European University Institute:

“We are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protection for Covid-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective. In the short run, however, we call upon all vaccine-producing countries to allow exports and to avoid measures that disrupt supply chains.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said he is “very much in favor” of suspending intellectual property.

A French government official added vaccine shortages are the result of a dearth of production and ingredients, not patents, explaining:

“I would remind you that it is the United States that has not exported a single dose to other countries, and is now talking about lifting the patents.”

Pope Francis supports “universal access to the vaccine and the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights,” explaining:

“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said:

“We wanted, first and foremost, to make sure that we were able to vaccinate the American people. And as you know, we’ve made remarkable progress on that. But we also know that none of us are going to be fully safe until everyone is, that is that around the world we get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

He added:

“But the main thing is we have to speed this up. On the current trajectory, if we don’t do more, if the entire world doesn’t do more, the world won’t be vaccinated until 2024. We can speed this up and get that done, I think, in a much shorter time. And if we do, we’re all going to be better off.”

The pandemic should not be a profit source.

A global health crisis requires the industry responsible for the medications we depend on to step up in the name of humanity and compassion.

There will be plenty of time to return to intellectual property rights when this is all over.

Now is the time to act with a global mission of COVID eradication.

Image credit: Hakan Nural via Unsplash

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.