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

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Photo: Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines won't do much to help with global access issues, and could actually cause setbacks to the world's vaccination effort, Pfizer wrote to a group of Democratic senators in a letter obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Pfizer — and the drug industry writ large — is on the defensive after the Biden administration announced it would support waiving vaccine patent rights. Pfizer alone likely has billions of dollars at stake.

What they're saying: "COVID-19 vaccines are complex biologic products, and their manufacturing requires specialized experience, expertise, and equipment. It is not as simple as sharing a 'recipe,'" writes Jennifer Walton, vice president of U.S. government relations.

  • Only a handful of facilities worldwide can currently manufacture mRNA vaccines and their ingredients at a large scale, she added.
  • Additionally, the waiver could create more competition for a finite supply of the hundreds of materials required to produce the vaccine.

Instead, Pfizer has partnered with other experienced manufacturers to scale up output, and is projecting that it will produce 2.5 billion doses in 2021.

Be smart: Advocates of the waiver will likely dismiss Pfizer's warning as fear-mongering for the sake of protecting its profits.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren did just that at a Senate Finance hearing yesterday: "Drug companies are kicking and screaming about this waiver over the COVID vaccines because they are worried that the federal government may finally have the spine to lower drug prices," she said.

Go deeper

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Aug 20, 2021 - Health

America's patchwork back-to-school plan

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Conflicting policies, fiery political debates and the continued spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 are sowing chaos and uncertainty into the back-to-school season.

Why it matters: This will be the third school year in a row with COVID-related disruptions. Many students have already suffered severe learning loss, and the gap between students could grow even wider, thanks to disparities in vaccinations and rising case counts.

Aug 20, 2021 - Health

NYPD: Unvaccinated officers must wear masks or face discipline

Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

Unvaccinated officers at the New York Police Department will be required to wear masks on duty or face disciplinary action, the department confirmed Friday.

Why it matters: Public and private entities are increasingly considering reinstating mask mandates amid a surge in Delta cases. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month that all city employees, including law enforcement, must get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

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