• Tue. Sep 27th, 2022

Quick Catch: Weakened Intellectual Property Protections Will Undermine Vital Medical Treatments

ByMadeleine J. Pierce

Jun 7, 2022

Thanks to the dedication of our brightest scientific minds and the most innovative companies, there are enough COVID-19 vaccines in production today to fully vaccinate everyone in the world. Last year, 10 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines were produced with 20 billion expected this year.

It didn’t happen by accident

Developing new drugs to fight disease takes time, effort and, most importantly, investment to make the journey from the research lab to the bedside. This is true for COVID-19 vaccines, which have been developed in record time thanks to previous decades of research, millions of dollars of investment, strong public-private partnerships and licensing technology. , made possible by clear and enforceable rules that protect intellectual property.

The work remains

Yet even as manufacturers produce billions of doses, public health systems in some countries struggle to ensure those doses reach all patients. From May, nearly 70%of the world’s population had received at least one dose, and this number is increasing every day, but the remaining 20% ​​are more difficult to reach. This is mainly due to two factors:

The infrastructure, logistical planning, personnel and other resources essential for last-mile vaccine delivery are lacking in many countries. From syringe shortages and supply chain disruptions to nursing shortages and transportation barriers, these challenges force many countries to destroy vaccines when they expire.

Many people able to get vaccinatedchoose not to, citing factors such as convenience, convenience, and confidence in safety and effectiveness. Although these vaccine-hesitant populations are well recognized in high- and middle-income countries, they are also prevalent in poorer countries.

Political scapegoat

Unfortunately, some governments are distracted from practical solutions to these problems, opting instead to support ideologically motivated, evidence-less “solutions in search of a problem”. Specifically, some governments are backing a proposal at the WTO to suspend intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines — the very rules that made those vaccines possible. Next week, the WTO will hold a ministerial meeting (“MC12”) where the political pressure to take some form of action on intellectual property is expected to intensify. Such actions would bring no benefits but many consequences.

previous dangerous

Waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines could have ripple effects on investments in innovation across many sectors.The next crisis may again be health-related, or it may be energy, food security or climate challenges that require a disruptive solution. An intellectual property waiver for Covid vaccines warns all innovators that their research investments will also stand to gain.

Role for American leadership

The United States must use its leadership to refocus the global response to COVID-19 on real and achievable plans to get shot. Initiatives to improve public education about vaccines, train healthcare workers, build healthcare infrastructure and streamline regulatory processes are all steps in the right direction.

big picture

World leaders know what needs to happen to achieve global vaccination against COVID-19. Scapegoating intellectual property and innovators is not part of the solution and threatens the response to both this crisis and the next.

About the authors

Robert Grant

Executive Director, International IP, Global Innovation Policy Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce