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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration surprised the world last night by coming out in favor of waiving patents for coronavirus vaccines — but Europe is divided on the issue.

What they're saying: European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said Brussels would be willing to discuss it; French President Emmanuel Macron said he backed the U.S. position, but a German government spokesman said the proposal would cause "severe complications" for vaccine production.

  • Some European officials also took swipes at the U.S. for coming to the vaccine equity table late, after declining to export any vaccines at all until recently.
  • At least 80 countries, led by India and South Africa, have called for vaccine IP to be waived, while rich countries and pharmaceutical companies had generally opposed the move.

The state of play: This issue is heading to the WTO, and will likely take months to resolve. It would then take at least several months more for facilities in the developing world to start pumping out vaccines.

  • Even then, most of the bottlenecks that are currently slowing global production — shortages of ingredients or vials, for example — will still exist, and the logistics of bringing new facilities on line will be complicated.
  • Still, waiving the patents could allow producers in countries like Bangladesh and South Africa to start producing doses, potentially increasing the supply to developing countries in the medium term.

In other news...

  • The COVAX initiative announced Thursday that it purchased 350 million doses of the Novavax vaccine for delivery beginning in Q3, pending regulatory approval. The U.S. could also begin sharing doses of the American-made vaccine once it's approved.
  • German firm CureVac will soon release trial data for its RNA vaccine, which — unlike Pfizer and Moderna — can be kept at normal refrigerated temperatures. That could make it a genuine game-changer.
  • Canada authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children as young as 12. The U.S. is likely to follow suit as early as next week.

Go deeper: U.S. could fill "vaccine diplomacy" void as other powers struggle

Go deeper

Aug 14, 2021 - Health

Excess COVID cases, deaths linked to wildfire smoke in new study

Flames rise during the fire in the village of Peyki as firefigters and residents continue to respond on the fifth day of a wildfire in the area north of the island of Evia, Greece, on Aug. 8. Photo: Dimitris Lampropoulos/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Exposure to high levels of fine particle pollution produced by wildfires may have led to thousands more COVID cases and deaths, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Why it matters: Research has shown that smoke can have dangerous health impacts, a correlation that is putting more and more at risk as the pandemic collides with the climate crisis.

Oregon governor sending 1,500 National Guard troops to assist hospitals

Photo: Nathan Howard via Getty Images

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she is deploying up to 1,500 National Guard troops to support hospitals as Delta continues to reach across the United States.

Why it matters: 733 Oregonians are currently hospitalized with severe cases, including 185 in intensive care, Brown said.

Biden administration offers aid to Florida schools defying DeSantis order

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (left) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photos: Joe Raedle and Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Biden administration is stepping in to offer financial assistance to Florida educators defying Gov. Ron DeSantis' law banning local K-12 mask mandates.

Why it matters: The battle over mask mandates in schools has been brewing for weeks. The Republican governor recently threatened to withhold pay from superintendents and school board members who go against his ban.