US President Joe Biden said Wednesday the US would support the easing of patent rules on Covid-19 vaccines, potentially expanding global supplies, as a devastating wave envelops India and calls grow louder for rich countries to narrow the gap with the developing world.
But a German government spokeswoman said on Thursday that the “protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation” and the Biden administration’s move would have “significant implications for vaccine production.”
“The limiting factor in vaccine manufacturing is production capacity and high quality standards, not patents,” the spokeswoman said.
“We are working in many ways on how to improve production capacity within Germany and within the European Union, but also worldwide, and the companies concerned are doing this with great commitment,” she added. “The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future.”
The German government also reiterated support for the COVAX vaccine-sharing initaive, with “the aim of ensuring that as many people in the world as possible have access to vaccine.”
Biden’s intervention on Wednesday came after members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) discussed a proposal by India and South Africa from last October to waive patents for both Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. No decision was made but America’s backing could turn the tide on a WTO decision.
“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,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai wrote in a statement.
Earlier on Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU is willing to discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property rights on the shots, Reuters reported.