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Why patents on COVID vaccines are so contentious; plus the latest virus news

Why patents on COVID vaccines are so contentious; plus the latest virus news

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Several world leaders Thursday praised the U.S. call to remove patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help poor countries obtain shots. But the proposal faces a multitude of hurdles, including resistance from the pharmaceutical industry.

Nor is it clear what effect such a step might have on the campaign to vanquish the outbreak.

Activists and humanitarian institutions cheered after the U.S. reversed course Wednesday and called for a waiver of intellectual property protections on the vaccine. The decision ultimately is up to the 164-member World Trade Organization, and if just one country votes against a waiver, the proposal will fail.

Here’s a look at what patents do and why they matter:

In other developments:

  • A new study and Census Bureau data show Americans moved out of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas and into smaller ones during the pandemic. The data released this week shows increased declines in the nation’s densest metros and gains in small cities in the Sun Belt and West.
  • New York City hopes to begin offering coronavirus inoculations to tourists by stationing vaccination vans in Times Square and other attractions.
  • President Joe Biden has met his goal of having most elementary and middle schools open for full, in-person learning in his first 100 days in office, according to new survey data, but the share of students choosing to return has continued to lag far behind.
  • Russian authorities approved a single-dose version of the country's Sputnik V vaccine, arguing that the move could accelerate the process of achieving herd immunity against the coronavirus.
  • The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 498,000, the lowest point since the viral pandemic struck 14 months ago and a sign of the job market’s growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending.
  • A new survey by The Actors Fund illustrates the depths of need created by the COVID-19 pandemic in the arts community. It reveals financial hardship, food insecurity and lost housing.
  • Cyprus has unveiled a phased rollback of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions including a shortened curfew and a reopening of all schools. But the island will enforce the compulsory display of proof of vaccination, virus testing or convalescence from the disease in areas where people gather in numbers — including restaurants and churches.

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