NEWS: Sanders and Colleagues Push for WTO Waiver on Barriers Blocking Vaccine Production Around the World

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tuesday sent a letter to the Biden Administration pushing for a waiver of international intellectual property (IP) rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines for the developing world. This comes as the WTO Ministerial Conference is set to begin next Tuesday, November 30.

This waiver is vital to boosting production of vaccines in low-income countries where only 5 percent of people are vaccinated. Higher vaccination rates in these countries would not only save lives, but reduce the likelihood of new variants that could jeopardize progress on the pandemic. Since the Administration’s May announcement of support for a vaccine patent waiver, little progress has been made. The WTO Ministerial Conference presents a crucial opportunity to get a deal.

In the letter to President Biden, the senators wrote: 

“A waiver will unlock local production of vaccines in developing countries, which is necessary both to overcome absolute shortfalls in supply and to ensure people in the developing world have reliable access to vaccines. The only way to end the pandemic is to increase vaccination rates to ensure that new variants cannot emerge from mass outbreaks. Today, only 5 percent of people in low-income countries are vaccinated.

“The United States and European Union nations have provided billions to pharmaceutical companies for the development and distribution of the most effective vaccines,” they continued. “By securing a waiver agreement at the WTO Ministerial, your Administration can demonstrate real and impactful American global leadership. If the Ministerial Conference cannot deliver a solution, the WTO — and the wealthy nations blocking the waiver — will continue to lose credibility with the developing world. We urge you to seize this opportunity to engage actively and productively at the WTO deliver on your promise to defeat the pandemic,” the Senators concluded.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Lujan (D-N.M.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Read the full letter here.