U.S. to discuss wider Covid vaccine licensing as India calls to waive patent protections

WASHINGTON – White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday that the Biden administration is looking to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to India and other countries now that millions of Americans have received their doses.

In recent weeks, India has grappled with a staggering rise in new coronavirus infections. Over the weekend, India reported 400,000 daily cases, bringing the nation’s cumulative total to 19,557,457 cases, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins . The spike may have been triggered by a highly contagious Covid variant, known as B.1.617, which was first identified in the country.

The variant has since been identified in other countries, including the United States.

On Friday, the White House announced that it would restrict travel from India as the country works to counter its surge of Covid-19 infections.

“We are rushing aid to India,” Klain said during an interview on CBS program “Face the Nation.”

Klain said that the U.S. has sent therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and protective equipment to the world’s largest democracy as well as raw materials crucial for vaccine production.

“Our U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is going to the WTO next week to start talks on how we can get this vaccine more widely distributed, more widely licensed, more widely shared,” he said when asked if the Biden administration would relax patent protections on the coronavirus vaccine.

Klain added that he expected the White House to have more to say on the matter in the coming days.

Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed lifting the patent protections of the coronavirus vaccine with Biden, according to a readout of the call . The relaxation would grant governments quicker and more affordable access to the lifesaving doses.

Last week, the Biden administration announced that it will immediately make raw materials needed for India’s coronavirus vaccine production available . The U.S. response came after Britain, France and Germany pledged aid to India, the world’s largest democracy. Rich nations have come under fire in recent days for hoarding the raw materials needed to make the shots.

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