WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – The U.S. Top Trader will enter into discussions with the World Trade Organization on ways to overcome intellectual property issues that keep critically needed COVID-19 vaccines from becoming more widespread worldwide, two White House officials said Sunday.
The White House has been under pressure from lawmakers at home and governments abroad to participate in an attempt to waive patent rules for the vaccines so that poor countries can start producing their own generic versions of the shots to vaccinate their people.
The United States has been criticized for first focusing on vaccinating Americans, especially as its vaccine supply begins to exceed demand and doses approved for use elsewhere in the world but not in the United States are inactive.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will begin talks with the trade organization “on how we can make this vaccine more widespread, more licensed, more widespread,”
Klain and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the administration will have more to say on the matter in the coming days.
Sullivan said the administration believes drug companies “should deliver on a large scale and at a cost to the world, so there is no barrier to everyone being vaccinated.”
Klain said the United States has sent India enough of the raw materials it needs to make 20 million vaccine doses right away. India is struggling with a deadly new rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.
Tai’s office did not respond Sunday to an email requesting further details following the comments of Klains and Sullivan.
Senator Bernie Sanders, IV., Who is among a group of Democratic senators pushing the White House on the subject, said the situation is “morally offensive.”
Sanders said that when millions of lives are at stake, drug companies should be asked to “allow other countries to have these intellectual property rights so that they can produce the vaccines that are desperately needed in poor countries.”
“There is something morally offensive about rich countries being able to get that vaccine, and yet millions and billions of people in poor countries cannot afford it,” Sanders said.
Klain appeared on CBS ‘”Face the Nation,” Sullivan on ABC’s “This Week” and Sanders on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”