With Alice Miranda Ollstein and Susannah Luthi
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— The Biden administration’s support for waiving coronavirus vaccine patents shocked progressives and drugmakers, both of whom had been lobbying on the issue for weeks.
— State and federal officials are worried the low vaccine uptake in parts of the country could make it easier for more virulent coronavirus variants to emerge.
— Moderna is focused on the variant threat, too, and a Covid booster shot now going through trials could be the answer.
WELCOME TO THURSDAY PULSE — where our thoughts are with the family and friends of Pia Christensen, a champion of health journalism who “was at the heart” of the Association of Health Care Journalists for the last decade-and-a-half. Her memorial page can be found here.
WAIVE THOSE PATENT PROTECTIONS GOODBYE — U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced Wednesday that the White House backs the waiver of patent and other intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, in a surprise move that lays the groundwork for expanding production of the shots worldwide, POLITICO’s Doug Palmer reports.
The U.S. will still need to negotiate the terms of the waiver at the World Trade Organization, and it could take months to reach an agreement. But supporters of rolling back the patent protections hailed the U.S.’ stance as a precedent-setting blow to the pharmaceutical industry’s hold on Covid vaccines and a sign the White House is committed to leading the global vaccination effort.