Covid-19 vaccine developers will get a word with the Biden administration before it signs off on a controversial plan to waive their coveted intellectual property rights, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said.
“We are willing to sit down and negotiate to see if there’s a way to deal with this. Everything is still the same until we’ve negotiated,” Becerra said Wednesday at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.
Becerra’s remarks come amid a heightening debate over whether patent and other IP protections over Covid-19 vaccines should be sacrificed so developing countries could make their own products and ramp up immunization more quickly.
The Biden administration last week announced its support of an international IP waiver, a proposal brought to the World Trade Organization by South Africa and India. Advocates heralded the move as a step in the right direction toward broader immunization. Critics say the move threatens innovation while failing to account for manufacturing and distribution hurdles.
Becerra said President Joe Biden has been having conversations with the pharmaceutical industry “from the very beginning” around vaccine IP, and that such communications are still ongoing.
“No action has been taken without having consultation with all those who are stakeholders and certainly the industry that has helped create these vaccines,” he said.