Top US trade negotiator discussed vaccine ramp-up with Novavax exec

WASHINGTON — US Trade Representative Katherine Tai discussed increasing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine production in a virtual meeting on Tuesday with an executive with drugmaker Novavax, Ms. Tai’s office said in a statement.

Ms. Tai and Novavax Executive Vice-President John Trizzino also discussed a proposal before the World Trade Organization to waive certain intellectual property rights in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the USTR statement said.

“Ambassador Tai sought Mr. Trizzino’s views on steps Novavax is taking to quickly increase equitable production and distribution of vaccines in the United States and around the world,” the statement said.

Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine is not currently authorized for use in the United States.

WTO members are due to discuss a proposal by India and South Africa to waive certain provisions of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights on April 30, but the United States and a few other big countries have blocked such a move.

Democratic lawmakers, civil society groups, and 60 former heads of state and 100 Nobel Prize winners have urged President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., to back the waiver.

Shares of Novavax surged 16% in extended trading on Tuesday after Biden Mr. said the United States was planning to share COVID-19 vaccines with countries in need of aid.

The company is expected to report data from its ongoing large, late-stage study in the United States and Mexico during the second quarter of this year.

Ms. Tai held virtual meetings on Monday with vaccine makers Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Novavax Chief Executive Stanley Erck met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday and said he was in talks with SK bioscience, the vaccine arm of SK Chemicals, to extend production and tech transfer agreements until 2022.

SK bioscience plans to start producing the Novavax COVID-19 vaccines as soon as the approval comes and manufacture 40 million doses to supply South Korea. — Reuters