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President Biden Responds to the Omicron Variant

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the FDA giving full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Last updated on December 23, 2021

Everything after the separator is the author’s opinion.

On Friday, November 26th, the World Health Organization identified a new coronavirus strain, Omicron, a letter in the Greek alphabet meaning “a variant of concern.”

Omicron was first detected in South Africa but has spread to the UK, Germany, and Italy. While there have been talking about waiving intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines since April, this new announcement might set the framework for Biden’s removal of IP rights.

In his Friday statement, President Biden said, “I call on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally. I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.”

Additionally, the US will enforce travel restrictions to and from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, starting on Monday, November 29th due to concerns over Omicron.

Recently, the US first case of the new Omicron Variant was detected in California, prompting state and local officials to respond. California Governor Newsom said the first case was “expected” and that more states will detect their first case.

To be clear, waiving pharmaceutical company’s IP rights allows other people and companies to essentially practice their patent, which would then result in other countries vaccinating their population. Currently, low-income countries only have a 4.4% of their population vaccinated, contrasting with the 65% of people vaccinated in America.

According to the New York Times COVID-19 death statistics, over five million people died from COVID. Even after nearly two years, the world continues to face a relentless pandemic and, yet, many are still not vaccinated. In Africa, only 15 out of 54 countries vaccinated 10% of their population. Even in the United States, there are still significant portions of the population who refuse to get vaccinated because of skepticism of the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Only half of the countries on the continent have vaccinated less than 2% of their population. As the leader of the free world, the US has not done enough for countries overseas, even with the millions of donated Pfizer vaccines.

Biden must respond quickly to detain this variant, hopefully with a change in COVID-19 policy and respective vaccination increases.

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