China supports talks on waiving intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines, Beijing’s commerce ministry said Thursday, amid a global push to widen access to jabs.
The World Trade Organization has for months faced calls to temporarily remove patent protections on coronavirus vaccines, in a bid to get the drugs to poorer countries struggling to inoculate their people.
The US has backed the proposal, but some European leaders have expressed scepticism over whether a waiver will improve accessibility.
“China supports the World Trade Organization’s proposal on intellectual property exemptions, for anti-epidemic materials such as Covid-19 vaccines, to enter the text consultation stage,” Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng said.
Beijing believes the WTO can play an “active role” in improving vaccine availability globally, he said, though he did not elaborate on further moves by the world’s second-largest economy.
Shares in Asia-listed vaccine makers tumbled last week after the US backed the plan for a waiver on Covid-19 patent protections — including those of Chinese companies like Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical and CanSino Biologics.
Fosun has rights to develop and market BioNTech’s shot in China, while CanSino manufactures one of the country’s primary domestic vaccines.