US-Germany rift could scupper vaccine patent waiver
WASHINGTON, May 7: A bold US bid to waive patents on much-needed coronavirus vaccines was strongly opposed by Germany on Thursday, threatening to derail the proposal that requires the consensus of World Trade Organization members to pass.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla meanwhile told AFP his company was "not at all" in favor of the measure, insisting intellectual property is not the main roadblock to more production and that building new plants would be counterproductive.
Rich nations have faced accusations of hoarding shots while poor countries struggle to get inoculation programs off the ground, with the virus surging across the developing world in contrast to the easing of restrictions in Europe and the United States.
The problem was highlighted as India, one of the worst-hit countries, registered record Covid-19 cases and deaths on Thursday.
Under intense pressure to ease protections for vaccine manufacturers, Washington's Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Wednesday that the US "supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines."
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the announcement as "a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19."
The move was also praised by the African Union, Paris, Rome and Vienna as well as World Trade Organization chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who previously voiced reluctance on the issue, said Brussels was ready to discuss the proposal. -AFP