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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in Berlin in November 2020. Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The Biden administration's support for a proposal to waive certain patent protections for coronavirus vaccines would create “severe complications” for vaccine production, a German government spokesperson said Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The patent waiver proposal, which proponents say will help increase vaccine production and deliver doses to the developing world, is working its way through the World Trade Organization and all 164 member countries will have to consent to the decision, according to Reuters.

  • Negotiations over the waiver are expected to last for months.

Context: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai signaled Wednesday that the U.S. would support the waiver during WTO negotiations.

  • The waiver was proposed by South Africa and India, which has been hit hard by a recent surge in new coronavirus cases.

The big picture: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday that the European Union was "ready to discuss" the proposal, according to Reuters.

  • Critics of the proposal have warned that it could discourage drug companies from embarking on research for emergency vaccines and medicine in the future and could set a dangerous precedent.
  • The waiver also might not fix the gaping global divide in access to vaccines as quickly as proponents expect since a lack of funding, logistical support and manufacturing capacity could limit its impact, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

Go deeper

May 5, 2021 - Health

U.S. will support waiving vaccine patents

Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The Biden administration will support a proposal to waive certain patent protections for coronavirus vaccines — a dramatic and controversial move designed to quickly bolster global supplies.

Why it matters: Proponents say this will help swiftly produce the vaccine doses that the developing world desperately needs. But the complex logistics of making and distributing the shots could limit the waiver’s impact, and critics say it sets a dangerous precedent.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
May 6, 2021 - Health

Why waiving vaccine patents might be a bad idea

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.

Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Coronavirus infections in the U.S. are now at their lowest levels in seven months, thanks to the vaccines.

The big picture: The vaccines are turning the tide in America's battle with the coronavirus. Deaths and serious illnesses have dropped significantly, and now cases are falling too — an important piece of protection for the future, if we can keep it up.