U.S. Support for Trips Waiver Hailed by Investors as a Major Step Towards Ending Covid "Vaccine Apartheid"

May 6th 2021

Temporary waiver of IP rights for COVID meds to allow for generic production could help ease the enormous COVID burden in low- and middle-income countries, saving millions of lives. 

NEW YORK, NY, THURSDAY, MAY 6TH, 2021 – Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) are celebrating the news that President Biden and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will support a temporary waiver of intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines to facilitate their manufacture by generics companies. 

Yesterday the administration announced it would enter into textual negotiations with the WTO on a waiver proposal initiated by South Africa and India. 

ICCR members are a coalition of faith- and values-based investors who have been engaging the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies for decades around the access and affordability of life-saving medicines. In February 2020 they wrote to pharma companies, many of which eventually received public funding for the development and manufacture of COVID-19 medicine, warning of a potential “vaccine apartheid” should low- and middle-income countries not be prioritized in distribution. They specifically called on the companies to waive IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and again in March 2021, wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to support a temporary IP waiver for these medicines. 

More than a billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally - but just 0.3% have been administered to people living in low-income countries,” said Cathy Rowan of Trinity Health. “Advancing global vaccine access is our moral responsibility as a global community at the service of the common good. Today’s decision will help further that goal.”  

ICCR members also filed shareholder proposals at several pharma companies seeking more information on how public funding for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments would be factored into strategies to maximize their access and affordability. The proposals at J&J, Merck and Pfizer all received shareholder support in excess of 30%. 

“The world has watched in horror as COVID ravaged low- and middle-income, densely populated countries like India, the Philippines and Brazil where vaccines and treatments are not readily available,” said ICCR’s Meg Jones Monteiro. “This decision will help level the playing field and, hopefully, speed the production and delivery of vaccines to help stem the unrelenting tide of COVID deaths in these vulnerable countries.” 

“We see healthcare as a human right,” said Lydia Kuykendal of Mercy Investment Services, “yet the way distribution has played out, it has become apparent that this right is reserved only for people fortunate to live in the wealthiest countries, including the U.S. We are gratified that the administration took note of this extreme bias and is taking the necessary steps to redress it.” 


About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Currently celebrating its 50th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-plus member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $USD 4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.