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This Is Biden’s Chance to Vaccinate the World

Last summer, President Joe Biden made a promise to me and to the American people.

While interviewing then-candidate Biden, I asked, “If the US discovers a vaccine first, will you commit to sharing that technology with other countries? And will you ensure there are no patents to stand in the way of other countries and companies’ mass-producing those lifesaving vaccines?” In response, Biden did not hesitate, equivocate, or mince his words. “Absolutely, positively. This is the only humane thing in the world to do,” Biden answered. He went on, concluding, “So, the answer is yes, yes, yes, yes. And it’s not only a good thing to do, it’s overwhelmingly in our interest to do it, as well. Overwhelmingly.”

Ten months after that interview, American innovation has delivered health and safety to the people of this country, and now Biden has the opportunity to reverse the course set by Donald Trump and steer the global community down a more just and humane path. Biden can make good on his pledge and help protect billions of people around the world from this deadly virus.

The fight against the pandemic is far from over, which is why Biden has such a great capacity to make a difference. Thousands of people are dying of Covid-19 each day in India, where medicine, oxygen, and ventilators have run short. And fatalities from the virus are higher than ever in Turkey, Iran, and Brazil. If we do not help vaccinate the world, vaccine resistant variants will likely come roaring back into the United States. So, as Biden correctly told me, it is in our own interest to lift vaccine protections. But it is also a moral imperative. The dreams of people in other countries are no less real than ours. Their love is no less strong. Their lives are no less worthy.

On Wednesday, Biden faces a critical juncture. That day, May 5, governments from around the globe will gather at the World Trade Organization. They will ask America to waive the rules that are blocking them from making enough vaccines to protect their people. The rules in question are governed by TRIPS—the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. TRIPS requires governments to guarantee corporations’ patents and other intellectual property rights, including monopoly control over the production of vaccines and other medicines.

Because of these restrictions, not enough doses of the vaccine are being manufactured, despite the incredible industrial capacity of countries like India. This pharma-created shortage will result in the deaths of millions more people from Covid-19. A waiver would loosen corporations’ grip and allow countries and companies around the world to increase supply of the vaccine and treatments. A waiver would save lives.

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