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EU open to discussion on coronavirus vaccine waiver

EU open to discussion on coronavirus vaccine waiver
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The European Union is prepared to have a discussion on waiving international patent protections for coronavirus vaccines after the U.S. declared it would back such a move at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would be open to the prospect as part of any proposal to handle the pandemic “in an effective and pragmatic manner.”

“That’s why we are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective,” she said in a speech to the European University Institute in Florence. 

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The announcement comes a day after U.S. Trade Representative Katherine TaiKatherine TaiBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal US, EU establish trade and technology council to compete with China US, EU reach deal to end 17-year aircraft trade dispute MORE said that the U.S. would support a waiver as countries across the globe grapple with worrisome spikes in COVID-19 cases.

"The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines," Tai said in a statement.

The WTO is currently negotiating the precise language of such a waiver, talks that Tai said “will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

World powers have come under increased pressure from activists and lower-income countries that have struggled to get their coronavirus outbreaks under control. 

Wealthy countries have purchased more than half of nearly 9 billion doses that have been sold to date, according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

Meanwhile, India is currently experiencing one of the worst waves of cases the world has seen since the pandemic’s start, and countries like South Africa are still facing high case counts due to highly infectious variants. 

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the U.S. decision Wednesday and called for other countries to join the effort to waive the protections. 

“I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let's all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced life-saving COVID-19 vaccines,” he said in a statement.