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!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

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!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

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

It will take more than waiving patent protections for coronavirus vaccines — which the Biden administration now says it supports — to fix the gaping global divide in access.

Why it matters: Waiving drug companies' intellectual property rights risks setting a bad precedent for future investment in new drugs. And that risk may not be worth it without additional steps to meaningfully increase the availability of shots across the world.

What happens next: The U.S. "will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization" to waive intellectual property protections, U.S. World Trade Organization Ambassador Katherine Tai said in a statement yesterday, adding that the negotiations will take time.

If agreed to, a waiver "will create a risk-free environment for any potential manufacturers to go and reverse-engineer some of these vaccines, if they have the capability," said Tahir Amin, co-founder and co-executive director of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge.

  • Amin said new manufacturers may be able to begin making some of the vaccines using more traditional technology by the end of the year, although it could take longer to figure out how to make mRNA vaccines.

The other side: Some experts and activists say other steps — including funding and logistical support to scale up manufacturing — would increase global vaccine supply more quickly.

  • "Unfortunately the time and energy dedicated to this negotiation may distract from and slow down what is urgently needed, which is a comprehensive approach to increasing global vaccine manufacturing capacity," said Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.
  • "Standing up new manufacturing, even in a circumstance where you have a full tech transfer and are cooperating closely with a new manufacturing partner, which isn’t the case here, would still take six months in the best cases, and usually much longer," former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. Gottlieb is on the board of Pfizer.

And experts are worried that weakening patent protections, in addition to being a potentially inefficient solution, would carry some significant long-term risks, especially in future pandemics.

  • "The only immediate beneficiary here is China, who has long sought a dismantling of these global rules that protect America’s intellectual property, and is positioned to copy these vaccines," Gottlieb said.
  • "I wonder whether we want to send potential firms the message that the larger the health crisis, the less we will respect and protect your IP. That's a great system if you think this is the last pandemic we'll face," tweeted Craig Garthwaite, a professor at Northwestern University.

Editors note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Gottlieb is on Pfizer’s board.

Go deeper

Apr 21, 2021 - Health

FDA: Plant that ruined millions of J&J doses had multiple failures

The Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore in April 2021. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Baltimore Emergent BioSolutions manufacturing plant that ruined 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine had multiple procedural failures, including unsanitary conditions near sensitive manufacturing areas, the Food and Drug Administration stated in a report Wednesday

Why it matters: The FDA faulted Emergent for failing to thoroughly review the incident, which halted the potential production and shipment tens of millions of Johnson & Johnson doses this month.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on young Hispanic Americans — Emergency room visits of all kinds dropped amid the pandemic — NY smart-thermometer network could predict next COVID wave.
  2. Vaccines: Vermont becomes first state to reach 80% vaccine thresholdNovavax says COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in Phase 3 trial — FDA clears 10 million J&J vaccine doses from contaminated Baltimore plant.
  3. Politics: U.S. to buy 500 million Pfizer doses to share with the world — State Department eases travel advisories for dozens of countries.
  4. Cities: New York City to host ticker tape parade for essential workers
  5. World: The G7's billion-dose pledge, heralded by Biden, doesn't add up — Boris Johnson extends England's COVID restrictions to curb variant spreadMoscow orders new restrictions amid surge in COVID-19 cases.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Back to normal without herd immunity.
  7. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
May 6, 2021 - Health

Countries testing J&J vaccine doses after contamination at Baltimore plant

The Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The European Union, Canada and South Africa are withholding Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines produced at an Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore, Maryland, for safety testing after quality-control problems, according to the New York Times.

Driving the news: Johnson & Johnson said in March that workers at the Emergent facility, which had been producing Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, had ruined about 15 million doses of its vaccine by contaminating a batch with ingredients used in the AstraZeneca vaccine.