Is there a ban on the export of coronavirus vaccines to the US?
There is no formal ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components, such as syringes, vials and filters. Companies that make vaccines, or things needed by jab makers anywhere in the world, are free to export them.
However, Washington used a wartime power known as the Defense Production Act to force private companies to fulfill its contracts before other orders. This prompts manufacturers anywhere in the world, such as the Serum Institute in India, to complain of not being able to buy things they normally import from the US. During normal hours, the US is the leading global exporter of syringes and needles, according to the OECD.
U.S. officials have defended their use of the DPA. “Making vaccines requires a lot of specialist material, and there is a lack of circulation,” an administration official said last week. “There’s more global manufacturing happening anywhere in the world than there is now that suppliers can support.”
Separately, the U.S. has several stockpiles of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine doses that it purchased early in the development process. To date, it has turned down requests from other countries to share jabs.
So why does the US export some doses?
The Joe Biden administration has said it will not ship vaccines to other parts of the world until there is plenty of U.S. supply, and its focus is on getting U.S. weapons shots.
Biden said in his address to Congress on Wednesday: “We will be an arsenal for vaccines for other countries, just as America is an arsenal for democracy for the world….[But]every American has access before that. ”
As supply grew, the administration was forced to share some of its stockpile, particularly AstraZeneca vaccines, which are still approved in the U.S.. Yet some in the administration are concerned that they will need additional doses in the future to combat new varieties or to deliver the annual booster shot.
What is the effect of the Defense Production Act?
DPA has been used dozens of times to ensure manufacturers prioritize the medical equipment needed to fight the pandemic. N95 masks, gowns, syringes and vials are all obtained under the terms of the DPA, which allows the government to dictate which household contracts should be fulfilled first.
One consequence of this is that pharmaceutical companies have warned hospitals to expect shortages of some drugs later in the year because the equipment commonly used to make them has been diverted to make equipment and products. drug to combat Covid-19.
The DPA has not allowed the administration to block exports abroad, though, and officials say it is difficult for foreign vaccine makers to get ingredients simply because world demand is so high. As a result, the Biden administration said this week it will send its own supplies to make AstraZeneca vaccines in India.
Is there anything to prevent the Biden administration from sending the finished dose owner overseas?
Industry executives and government officials say a clause enshrined in original contracts signed between the Donald Trump administration and vaccine makers, prohibits the government from exporting tag doses. owns it. Officials say drug makers want this proposal to protect them from possible lawsuits from people abroad who claim to have made U.S. doses that hurt them.
Paul Mango, the former deputy chief of staff of the health department during the Trump administration, said: “Even the president cannot export people without making sure that drug companies cannot be held accountable for their leaving the country. “
Biden officials would not say how they overcame this legal hurdle when agreeing to export 4m doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Canada and Mexico, and another 60m worldwide. But the answer may lie in the complicated arrangement for both Canada and Mexico, where doses are technically “loaned” based on the same countries to return doses made in their own countries. at a later date.
Does the Biden administration agree to suspend patents for vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to the World Trade Organization in Geneva to allow countries to temporarily assert patent rights for pandemic -related medical products. The proposal has already been supported by 60 countries.
While the Trump administration has vehemently opposed the neglect of intellectual property rules, along with the UK, EU and Switzerland, Biden’s chief trade officer Katherine Tai has upset U.S. pharmaceutical companies by appearing which put the inspection position.
His office said the agency was “exploring every avenue” and “evaluating the effectiveness” of the waiver, and Tai told the WTO he was interested in hearing more about “how the market has also failed to meet the health needs of developed country ”.
Proponents of a reversal of WTO rules on IP, known as Intellectual Property Rights, or Trips, say the temporary suspension of the rules will allow many emerging countries to make their own copies of vaccines without fear of being sued. IP violations.
Pharma companies, however, strongly opposed such a removal, arguing that the lack of available manufacturing capacity was the cause of bottlenecks, rather than IP protections.
Is this enough?
Experts warn that even if a waiver is granted, it will take more to ensure the rest of the world has enough vaccines. Many people are calling for manufacturers of mRNA vaccines especially to help set up manufacturing centers overseas, given their technology as it is the best at tackling the new problems. the race.
“We need to build vaccine -making hubs, with technological transfer, to keep the mRNA vaccine going elsewhere,” said Tom Frieden, former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “MRNA vaccines are much less susceptible to production delays, are easier to tweak for varieties, they’re probably both safer and more effective, and they’re easier to start making. A something like that must be done now. ”