Majority of US population supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccine production 

Citing the interests of “innovators”, the US has led other rich countries in opposing the proposal for a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines raised by over 100 poor and developing countries in the WTO

April 16, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
COVID-19 vaccine patents
(Photo: Progressive International)

According to a new survey, more than 60% of US voters across party lines would support president Joe Biden endorsing the demand of a patent rights waiver for COVID-19 vaccines raised by over 100 countries at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The survey conducted by Data for Progress and the Progressive International and published on the latter’s website shows that only 28% of all voters in the US oppose the move. 

The survey indicates that the overwhelming majority of Democrats – over 72% – support the move which can reduce the cost of vaccine production and increase its reach to people in poor and developing countries across the globe. Around 50% of the registered Republicans also support the move. 

Commenting on the findings of the survey, general coordinator of Progressive International David Adler said in the statement that “there is a popular mandate from the US American People to put human life and economic recovery ahead of corporate profits and broken intellectual property systems.”

Last month, more than 100 countries wrote to the WTO to waive the intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines. Due to patent rights, countries are barred from producing several leading vaccines. The countries claimed that waiving the patent rights will end the unequal access to vaccines and facilitate the increased production of their cheaper versions. This will help poor and developing countries to get access to vaccines and immunize their populations faster. Due to the patents regime, the majority of countries are currently dependent on buying expensive doses from companies in the developed world, which most of them cannot afford. Patents have also added to shortages in production. 

According to studies, 86% of all vaccinations so far have taken place in rich countries, whereas the poorer countries’ share is just 0.1%.

The World Health Organization, the UN, and several international organizations have raised the question of unequal access to vaccines due to hoarding by rich countries and supported the call for a patent waiver. Members of the US Congress have started a signature campaign in support of the demand. According to People’s Vaccine, over 170 former heads of states, governments and Nobel laureates have written to president Biden asking him to support the patent waiver.  

The proposal to suspend patent rights was first proposed by South Africa and India in October last year. However, countries such as the US, Canada, and the European Union have opposed the move citing the interests of the “innovators”. 

Reacting to the findings of the survey, senator Bernie Sanders, who is also the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said, “I strongly believe that the United States should be leading the global effort to end the coronavirus pandemic. Supporting a temporary WTO waiver, which would enable the transfer of vaccine technologies to poorer countries, is a good way to do that.” He further said that “this virus does not respect borders. The bottom line is, the faster we help vaccinate the global population, the safer we will all be. That should be our number one priority, not maximizing the profits of pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders,” Progressive International quoted.