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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.

The big picture: Developing nations and advocates on the left have been pushing the Biden administration for weeks to support a waiver of certain intellectual property rights to the vaccines, which the U.S., along with Europe and the pharmaceutical industry, had resisted until today.

  • A waiver would open the door for foreign manufacturers to make their own versions of coronavirus vaccines, using what would otherwise be considered Pfizer and Moderna's trade secrets.

The other side: Intellectual property rights are only one piece of the puzzle. Sourcing the ingredients for vaccines, standing up a complex manufacturing process, and distributing the finished doses all pose additional challenges.

  • Because of those factors, a patent waiver may not have much effect on supplies, and critics warn that the move could discourage drug companies from embarking on this kind of emergency research in the future.

What's next: Nothing's likely going to happen right away. Negotiations over the specifics of a waiver are ongoing, and will take time, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

Go deeper

How the messaging around FDA approval could boost COVID shots

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine can provide a big boost to vaccination efforts or a more modest one — depending on how it is handled when the decision comes down.

Between the lines: If FDA approval is left to be interpreted by the public through the countless channels of communication and misinformation people use to digest vaccine information, the effect of the decision will be much more modest or even muddled.

Aug 12, 2021 - Health

CDC head warns unauthorized boosters undermine safety monitoring

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Thursday that Americans getting unauthorized booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine undermine the CDC's safety monitoring of recipients.

Why it matters: With booster shots a near inevitability, many Americans are eager to know when they will be able to get one. Some are now circumventing official CDC guidelines and getting a third shot.

Supreme Court lifts part of New York's eviction ban in win for landlords

Demonstrators in New York City at a rally calling for an extension of the state's eviction ban until 2022 and the cancellation of rent. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court lifted part of New York's COVID-related moratorium on home evictions in a divided ruling on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: The court sided with a group of landlords who argued that the ban violates their rights, but the ruling's immediate effect is unclear. The New York ban is separate from a federal eviction moratorium recently extended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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