President Biden is rightfully proud of the significant progress that has been made in bringing COVID-19 vaccines to the American people. The improvements are being felt all around the country, particularly in previously underserved communities. This is a great accomplishment in a mere 50 days since his election.

But there is still a looming crisis that has not yet been adequately addressed. The President has likened the battle against the virus to being at “war”, and he is right. This is a World War, and as long as the virus flourishes anywhere on the globe, human beings everywhere are in grave danger.

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been quoted as saying, “the progress on vaccination has been wildly uneven and unfair, and that more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.” That endangers us all.

That is why poor and developing countries, led by India and South Africa, along with hundreds of other nations have urgently gone to the World Trade Organization (WTO) seeking a time-limited waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. During this COVID pandemic, these nations want the right to manufacture the vaccines and therapeutics themselves.

Predictably, Big Pharma is adamantly opposed, claiming in their letter to the President that “intellectual property is the foundation for both the development and sharing of new technologies,” not mentioning their profits, or the billions of dollars that taxpayers have contributed.

Now the Administration has announced a plan to increase vaccine manufacturing in India. That is a step in the right direction. But as Dr. Tony Fauci said, “unless you equally suppress throughout the world…you will always have the danger…of a variant emerging, getting to your country, and re-giving you another spike.”

It is time now to take the next step and endorse the TRIPS waver. The waiver is supported by over 100 countries and being opposed by only a handful of rich countries. Supporters include the 400 U.S. and international organizations that sent the President a letter in March requesting waiver support, and the growing number of members of Congress who want the U.S. to endorse the waiver. The world needs as much vaccine manufacturing capacity as it can get. Time is of the essence.

U.S. Congresswoman representing the 9th District of Illinois since 1998.

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