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UPDATE 1-Germany rejects U.S. proposal to waive patents on COVID-19 vaccines

·1-min read

(Adds detail, quotes)

BERLIN, May 6 (Reuters) - Germany on Thursday rejected a U.S. proposal to waive patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines, saying the greatest constraints on production were not intellectual property but increasing capacity and ensuring quality.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday voiced support for a waiver in a sharp reversal of the U.S. position, and his top trade negotiator, Katherine Tai, swiftly backed negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

The German government stood behind the goal of a worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines, a government spokeswoman said, adding however that the main factors in vaccine production are capacity and quality standards, and not patents.

"The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

She said Germany supported the COVAX initiative, with the aim of ensuring that as many people in the world as possible have access to vaccines, adding that discussions were continuing at the WTO.

The WTO said in April that of 700 million vaccines administered around the world, only 0.2% had been in low-income countries. A recent surge of infections in India, the world's second most populous country, has underlined the point.

The European Union is willing to discuss a proposal to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday, as drugmakers fought their ground. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Madeline Chambers Editing by Douglas Busvine and Jonathan Oatis)

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