White House Says WTO Waiver May Not Be Best Way to Spur Vaccines

Supply Lines is a daily newsletter that tracks trade and supply chains disrupted by the pandemic. Sign up here.

The U.S. focus on increasing supply of Covid-19 vaccines for other countries may mean boosting manufacturing at American facilities rather than waiving intellectual-property protections for doses, the White House said.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who has been holding meetings with vaccine producers and groups advocating a temporary suspension of rules at the World Trade Organization, has yet to make a recommendation to the White House on the waiver proposal, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview with CNN Thursday. President Joe Biden and his Covid-19 team will then make the ultimate decision on the U.S. waiver position, she said.

Progressive Democrats including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been arguing for the U.S. to back the waiver proposed by South Africa and India as the best way to address a shortage of vaccines in developing countries. Pharma companies argue that the waiver plan is ineffective, and that it would undermine private incentives to invest in research and development.

“What we’re looking at now is how to ensure we can make more supply to provide to the global community, and do it in the most cost-effective way,” Psaki said. “There are lots of ways to do that; I know there’s been a lot of focus on the patent, but there’s a way to increase manufacturing in the United States at our manufacturing facilities that are already equipped to do more manufacturing, so we’re looking at a range of options.”

Of the shots administered globally so far, 37% have gone to people in 27 wealthy nations that represent 11% of the world population. Countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated about 25 times faster than those with the lowest, according to an analysis of data in the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.