A group of 175 former world leaders and Nobel laureates is urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.¬†A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid-related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A MUTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prizewinners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US president Joe Biden, seen by the Financial Times.

They added a waiver in tandem with other measures would “expand global manufacturing capacity, unhindered by industry monopolies that are driving the dire supply shortages blocking vaccine access”.

While wealthier countries have access to doses of Covid vaccines and are increasing vaccination programs for their populations, developing economies have so far had more limited access to doses.

former UK prime minister; Francois Hollande, former French president; Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the USSR; and