Ten Democratic Senators, led by Bernie Sanders, have urged US President Joe Biden to support the temporary waiver of some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules proposed by India and South Africa in WTO amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Waiving the rules will help in ensuring the most effective and efficient response to this 'once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic', the Senators said in a letter.
Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Jeffrey Merkley, Edward Markey, Chris Van Hollen, and Raphael Warnock are the other Senators who wrote the letter.
The TRIPS waiver proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020 would temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers and allow countries to locally manufacture COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.
Allowing countries to manufacture locally will expedite access to vaccines and treatment, prevent unnecessary deaths, expedite global vaccination efforts, and facilitate a stronger, faster economic recovery, the letter said.
The waiver, they said, is vital to ensuring sufficient volume of and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics around the world, which is why it is supported by more than 100 nations. They argued that the waiver will help in ensuring that all global economies, including US, can recover from the pandemic.
However, another group of 18 Republican lawmakers has also written a separate letter to Biden against the proposal, arguing that the US would lose vital research and development capacity needed to prepare for future pandemics and other health security threats.
"America's strong IP infrastructure has facilitated rapid access to cutting-edge technologies to combat COVID-19, including diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines," the opposition Republican lawmakers wrote.
"Unfortunately, some longstanding opponents of IP have used the COVID-19 pandemic to try to weaken the exact polices that enabled the incredible global response. For example, India and South Africa are leading an effort at the WTO to suspend critical and broad IP provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement," the letter, led by Congressman Kevin Brady, Ranking Member of the Committee on Ways and Means, said.
Supporters of the proposal have alleged, without evidence, that waiving these rights would result in large numbers of new manufacturers, particularly in the developing world, producing more vaccines, it said.
Waiving IP rights will only frustrate ongoing efforts to produce and distribute safe and effective vaccines, the letter said, calling the proposal 'misguided'.
(With inputs from PTI)