Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A growing chorus of advocates wants to weaken some of the intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, which they say will quickly expand global supplies. But critics say the move wouldn't work, and would set a bad precedent.

Where it stands: The Biden administration is evaluating the idea, including whether it would work as intended.

The big picture: Rich countries, including the U.S., are well into their vaccination efforts, while many developing nations have yet to begin.

  • Around 100 countries, led by India and South Africa, want the World Trade Organization to temporarily suspend some intellectual property rights for coronavirus vaccines and treatments, Nature reports.
  • “If a temporary waiver to patents cannot be issued now, during these unprecedented times, when will be the right time?” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, recently tweeted, the Washington Post reports. “Solidarity is the only way out.”

The other side: The U.S., the European Union, the U.K. and most major pharmaceutical companies have opposed the measure so far.

  • "COVID-19 vaccines are complex biologic products," 31 board members of PhRMA, the drug industry's leading trade group, wrote in a letter to Biden earlier this month. "Eliminating protections would not speed up production."
  • “The thing about vaccines is that, unlike a drug, you can’t just [follow instructions] and assume that you’ve got a vaccine. This is a complex biological process that has multiple quality-control steps," Jerome Kim, director-general of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, told Nature.
  • Krishna Udayakumar, associate director for innovation at the Duke Global Health Institute, told the Post that the debate is “more symbolic than practical," and that "what we really need is a stronger effort to develop vaccine manufacturing and transfer knowledge and know how, which is much deeper than patents."
  • Experts have also raised concerns that removing patent protections would reduce innovation incentives for drug companies in the future.

What we're watching: The Biden administration says it's looking into the idea.

  • "We are exploring every avenue to coordinate with our global partners and are evaluating the efficacy of this specific proposal by its true potential to save lives,” USTR spokesman Adam Hodge told CNBC.
  • Pressure on the administration may be increasing. Some progressive lawmakers support the waivers, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently sent a letter "urging the administration to study the issue," per CNBC.

What they're saying: "We must find a 'third way' on intellectual property that preserves the multilateral rules that encourage research and innovation while promoting licensing agreements to help scale-up manufacturing of medical products," Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the WTO, wrote earlier this month in an op-ed.

Go deeper: The problem with vaccine patents

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

J&J to supply 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to African Union

Photo: Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson has inked a deal with the African Union (AU) to supply up to 400 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine starting in the third quarter of the year, the drugmaker announced Monday.

Why it matters: Disparities in vaccine access remain a challenge for Africans, especially as the continent struggles to contain the coronavirus variant that originated in South Africa.

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines are 90% effective in real-world conditions

A registered nurse loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Frederic Brown/AFP via Getty Images

People who are fully vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna are 90% less likely to get infected with COVID-19, according to a CDC study that tested nearly 4,000 health care workers and other essential workers for the virus weekly.

Why it matters: The data show how well the vaccine performs in non-clinical trial settings. During the mRNA clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, effectiveness from full vaccination was about 95%.

Biden urges governors to reinstate mask mandates: "This is not politics"

President Biden on Monday pleaded with governors, mayors and local leaders to maintain or reinstate mask mandates in order to help America reach the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Biden's comments came hours after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned of her sense of "impending doom" of a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.