UK working with U.S., WTO on boosting COVID vaccine supply

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain is discussing ways of increasing production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines with the United States and World Trade Organization, a government spokesperson said on Thursday after Washington supported waiving their intellectual property rights.

President Joe Biden threw his support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, bowing to mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers and more than 100 other countries, but angering pharmaceutical companies.

“The UK is working with WTO members to resolve this issue. We are in discussions with the U.S. and WTO members to facilitate increased production and supply of Covid-19 vaccines,” the spokesperson said.

“As one of the biggest donors to COVAX, we will ensure global access to vaccines and continue to encourage manufacturers to provide their vaccines on a not-for-profit, transparent basis.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously hailed the role private pharma companies played in bringing about COVID-19 vaccines, saying their investments in risky bets is “what capitalism is all about”.

The government has encouraged knowledge sharing between industry and manufacturers, but stopped short of calling for IP waivers.

Instead, Britain has cited how voluntary licensing agreements, for instance between AstraZeneca and manufacturers around the world, can help increase vaccine supplies, and has welcomed efforts to promote such partnerships.

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