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House Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver

House Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver
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Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday urged the U.S. trade representative to continue opposing a waiver to loosen patent and intellectual property protections on coronavirus vaccines.

The Biden administration is facing pressure from the international community, drug pricing advocates and congressional Democrats to back a move that would waive an international intellectual property agreement that protects pharmaceutical trade secrets.

The waiver proposal is being spearheaded by India and South Africa, which argue it would enable lower-income countries to manufacture the vaccines themselves, especially in light of the record-breaking wave of COVID-19 infections in India.

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The Biden administration is expected to set its position clearly at a World Trade Organization meeting on Wednesday.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine TaiKatherine TaiOn The Money: Job openings jump to record high of 8.1 million | Wyden opposes gas tax hike | Airlines feel fuel crunch GOP senator urges Biden to withdraw support for COVID vaccine patent waiver Vaccine patent waivers face more hurdles despite Biden support MORE, the Republicans, led by Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan says 'votes are there' to oust Cheney from GOP leadership Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one MORE (Ohio) and Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaHouse Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver Republicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America Mellman: Biden's smart bipartisan message MORE (Calif.), said the waiver would do little to improve public health.

"The requested waiver is extraordinarily broad and unnecessary to accomplish the goal of giving as many people as possible access to vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, including in developing countries," they wrote. "Rather, the waiver would undermine the very innovation that has led to the record-breaking rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines already saving lives around the world, and it would not meaningfully improve vaccine availability."

The lawmakers said the international community should instead focus on overcoming "the real obstacles faced by developing countries in accessing vaccines and treatments, which does not require waiving intellectual property (IP) rights."

The Republicans suggested focusing on programs such as COVAX and the ACT Accelerator initiative.

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"These efforts are providing real solutions for countries that need access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments without dismantling IP protections, even temporarily," the lawmakers wrote. 

Democrats and international advocates argue President BidenJoe BidenKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' US officials testify on domestic terrorism in wake of Capitol attack MORE has a moral imperative to act and to help the world and that sharing vaccine IP is the best way to do it. 

Administration officials have not tipped their hand, but White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainBiden sees Trump rematch as real possibility White House says Biden won't 'underestimate Trump' if he runs in 2024 House Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver MORE suggested when pressed recently that patents and other IP protections are not the main barriers to increasing global vaccine access.

Some experts similarly caution that simply waiving patents would not solve the problem, given that the vaccines are very difficult to produce. Having the recipe for a vaccine does not necessarily mean a drugmaker could produce it.

In an interview with the Financial Times on Monday, top infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: Biden announces 1M have enrolled in special ObamaCare sign-up period | Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins | Biden vows to get 'more aggressive' on lifestyle benefits of vaccines Average US daily COVID-19 cases below 40K for first time since September Rand Paul clashes with Fauci over coronavirus origins MORE suggested he was "agnostic" to the idea of an IP waiver but did not want to spend time being tied up in court because of the inevitable pharmaceutical industry lawsuits.

“If you take too long, people are going to die,” Fauci told the paper. “There are other ways to ramp up vaccine production around the world.”