Would a Patent Waiver for COVID-19 Vaccines Help Achieving Vaccine Equity?
Giovanna Maria Dora Dore
Published: September 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic reignited a long-running debate about whether pharmaceutical companies should waive intellectual property (IP) rights for the greater good. Activists, and low- and middle-income countries contend that WTO rules on intellectual property limit developing countries’ access to life-saving pharmaceuticals, and are calling for waivers through formal policy proposals, editorials in scientific publications and op-eds in mainstream media. Pharmaceutical companies, health experts and high-income countries argue that low manufacturing capacity, rather than patents, is the impediment to global vaccination efforts. Even if the patents were waived, in fact, low- and middle-income countries would be unable to manufacture vaccines without the technical expertise of the inventors, or access to critical ingredients that are already in short supply. International engagement over IP protections, manufacturing and distribution will be more beneficial as components of broader commitments to speed vaccine deployment in the near term and build a lasting cooperative framework for pandemic and emerging infectious diseases in the long run