The World Health Organization on Thursday welcomed the United States decision to support temporary waiver of intellectual property on Covid vaccines. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus termed it a “historic decision” and a “bold move”, which he said will end the pandemic “as quickly as possible”.

“The commitment by the President of the United States Joe Biden and Ambassador Katherine Tai, the US Trade Representative, to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of American leadership to address global health challenges,” Tedros said, according to a release by the global health body.

He added, “I commend the United States on its historic decision for vaccine equity and prioritising the well-being of all people everywhere at a critical time.”

Earlier on Thursday, Trade Representative Katherine Tai issued a statement saying the United States would participate in World Trade Organization negotiations to support the temporary waiving of protections, and work with the private sector and other partners to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” Kai added.

The move came after the US came under intense pressure to waive protections for vaccine manufacturers, especially amid criticism that rich nations were hoarding Covid-19 vaccines. India and South Africa have been leading the fight within the World Trade Organization to allow more drugmakers to manufacture the vaccines.

Last month, it had come to public knowledge that a group of over 170 world leaders and Nobel Prize winners urged Biden support the waiver. India and South Africa had moved this proposal at the World Trade Organization in October last year. But the United States and several other countries blocked negotiations on the proposal at the trade body, according to Reuters.

However, the change in Washington’s stance would take time to come to a conclusion. The waiving of patents is a long-drawn process and will not come into effect immediately as World Trade Organisation decisions require a consensus of all 164 members.