May 5 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Wednesday announced that it supports waiving protections on intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Twitter that "extraordinary times and circumstances call for extraordinary measures" stating that the U.S. supports waivers on IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines "to help end the pandemic" and will participate in World Trade Organization negotiations to facilitate waivers.
"This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. 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," she said.
Tai continued that the goal of the Biden administration is to "get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible."
"As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts -- working with the private sector and all possible partners -- to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines," she said.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the United States for the decision, which he called a "monumental moment in the fight against COVID-19."
"I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritizing the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time. Now let's all move together swiftly, in solidarity, building on the ingenuity and commitment of scientists who produced life-saving COVID-19 vaccines," he said.
Doctors Without Borders also applauded the decision but urged the United States to also provide supplies as well as medical tools, treatments and diagnostics.
"If the U.S. truly wants to end this pandemic, it must also share its surplus vaccine doses with COVAX now and fill the access gap until additional manufacturers are able to scale up production," the group said. "The U.S. must also demand that pharma companies that received significant amounts of U.S. taxpayer funding to create these vaccines share the technology and know-how with other capable manufacturers to protect more people worldwide."
Stocks of pharmaceutical companies involved in vaccine production declined following the announcement as Moderna dropped 6.19%, BioNTech fell 3.45% and Johnson & Johnson fell 0.42%. Pfizer stock closed the day flat, gaining 0.05%.
The announcement comes a day after Biden announced the United States plans to have 70% of adults receive at least one vaccine dose and 160 million people fully vaccinated by July 4.
It also comes amid a global surge in COVID-19 cases, particularly in India which recorded 800,000 new cases over two days last week with only 5% of residents vaccinated and a shortage of supplies.