Press Release

Statement from the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima on the decision by the United States of America to support the TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

06 May 2021

Support for waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines

5 May 2021 I applaud the announcement from United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai supporting the waiving of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.  

This is the kind of global leadership the world desperately needs as we witness horrific scenes in countries like India, where only nine in 100 people have been vaccinated. To date, more than 1.1 billion doses of vaccines have been administered globally, but more than 80% of those have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while just 0.3% have been administered in low-income countries.

We are in a race to vaccinate the majority of the world’s population to curb death tolls and before more potent variants of COVID-19 emerge, rendering current vaccines ineffective. The faster we can scale up global vaccine supply, the faster we can contain the virus and the less chance we will face a day when variants prove resistant to existing vaccines. As the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has said “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.

The TRIPS waiver would enable the sharing of technologies, data, know-how, patents and other intellectual property rights across the world. The announcement of the US administration sends a powerful signal to the rest of the G7 and to the 

European Union to also support the World Trade Organization TRIPS Waiver and inspire other countries to take a powerful stand in favour of people before profits. This remarkable position from the US government is a fundamental step towards a People’s Vaccine.

To ensure everyone, everywhere has access to a lifesaving vaccine, we also need to see a pooling of technology through the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, as well as financing to help build a network of vaccine manufacturing in developing countries. These three actions can together build a sustainable system to vaccinate the world, reach the needed herd immunity and open the paths to make the world best prepared for future pandemics. 

As we have learned from 40 years of fighting AIDS, equitable access to medical technologies is critical both for saving lives and for decreasing the impact of infectious diseases on people, communities and nations.

We are grateful to President Biden and his Administration for the generous humanitarian pledges made on COVID-19 and for today’s announcement. 


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

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