Pfizer, Moderna Shares Dip as Biden Administration Supports COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday that the United States would advocate for waiving COVID-19 vaccine patent protections in discussions with the World Trade Organization. The announcement came as coronavirus infections reached their highest levels in countries that have struggled to secure and distribute vaccines. Such a waiver will remove barriers to the production of vaccines in developing countries.

“The Biden administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but the White House will back the waiver given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tai said in a statement. The administration has faced pressure to support the measure, which aims to increase vaccinations around the world, especially in countries experiencing a surge in infections, like India, without having to rely solely on exports.

Shortly after Tai’s announcement, stocks of pharmaceutical companies that produced vaccines had fallen, including Moderna and Pfizer.

In the premarket trading, Pfizer and Moderna are respectively down 3.45% and 3.19%.

The German manufacturers, BioNTech and CureVac, are down 16.9% and 15.49%, respectively.


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The European Union also signaled its willingness to discuss the U.S. proposal to waive various intellectual property protections on the vaccine to increase global supplies. The E.U. is home to several pharmaceutical heavyweights. Intellectual property rights are frequently featured in trade discussions, but calls for relaxing them during the COVID-19 pandemic echo the significant international disputes over HIV medication in the 90s.

It is not yet clear if the protections will be waived since all 164 members of the World Trade Organization will need to agree on the matter. The Organization is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the proposals. The pressure is now growing on other wealthy nations to support the effort of the U.S. to waive the patent protection of the vaccines.

The companies tend to vigorously oppose any efforts to do away with intellectual property rights, arguing that the incentive is little to none for them to undertake the expensive task of developing and bringing drugs to market without the money patents bring in.