Daily Management Review

Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver Proposal By US Supported By The EU But Critics Oppose


Covid-19 Vaccine Patent Waiver Proposal By US Supported By The EU But Critics Oppose
The proposal of the United States president Joe Biden to wave off patent rights of companies over Covid-19 vaccines was backed by the European Union. However, that idea was opposed by vaccine makers and some other governments arguing that such a measure will not resolve the inoculation shortages being experienced globally.
Willingness to explore the waiver proposal was expressed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.  
"The main thing is, we have to speed this up," US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Thursday as India battled a devastating COVID-19 outbreak. "None of us are going to be fully safe until ... we get as many people vaccinated as possible."
He said that a patent waiver is "one possible means of increasing manufacture, and access to vaccines" even as a split among officials about the proposal was denied by the White House.
Negotiations at the World Trade Organization to gain global agreement were endorsed by the Biden's administration.
She "warmly welcomed" the US move, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told member states. "We need to respond urgently to COVID-19 because the world is watching and people are dying," she said.
Capital letters were used in a tweet on the issue by the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He described the move by Biden as a "MONUMENTAL MOMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST #COVID19". He added that the move reflected "the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States."

But flaws in the proposals were found by companies that have developed or are developing Covid-19 vaccines who face the prospect of loss of revenues if their patent rights over the vaccines were revoked.
The pointed out that immediate increase vaccine production would not be possible by simply giving free access to the intellectual property because of the complexities of manufacturing such vaccines. Its patent rights over its Covid-19 vaccines was waived by Moderna in October but the company said on Thursday that it had noted a shortage of companies who had the capability to rapidly manufacture a similar vaccine and secure approval for it.
Combined total sale revenue of more than $45 billion of the Covid-19 vaccines for this year was forecast earlier by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.
Some of the critics of the move of waiver of patents said that pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged in the long term from rapidly responding to future global health threats and making huge investments in research.
The idea of waiver was however rejected by Germany - EU's biggest economic power and home to a large pharmaceutical sector. The country argued that limited production capacity and quality standards, and not patent protection issues, were responsible for the vaccine shortages globally.
While Biden's goal of providing the whole world with vaccines was apparently supported by Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn, a spokeswoman for the said in a statement that "the protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future."