COVID 19 Update – Rich Countries Signed Away The Opportunity To Vaccinate The Whole World
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Despite multiple warnings, American and European officials surrendered power that could have ensured billions of people’s access to the COVID-19 Vaccine. This has the potential to extend the pandemic. A patent on a five-year-old discovery, a feat of molecular engineering at the core of at least five big Covid-19 vaccines, will be published in the coming days. And the patent would be under the jurisdiction of the US government. The new patent provides an opportunity. Some say the last best chance to gain control over the vaccine manufacturers and compel them to extend access to less developed countries. The question is whether the government will take any action.
The pandemic’s rapid production of Covid-19 vaccines, which was accomplished at an incredible rate and funded by substantial public support in the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, represents a major victory. Governments partnered with pharmaceutical companies, investing billions of dollars in raw materials, clinical trials, and factory upgrades. Billions more were pledged to purchase the finished product. Several health officials and advocacy organizations worldwide urge Western governments to use force to compel vaccine manufacturers to publish their recipes, share their know-how, and scale up production. Advocates for public health have begged for assistance, including urging the Biden administration to use its patent to press for further vaccine access.
Pressuring organizations to share patents may be seen as stifling progress, sabotaging drug manufacturers, or choosing long and expensive battles with the same companies helping to end the pandemic. Although wealthy countries struggle to remain in power, developing countries such as South Africa and India have fought against the World Trade Organization, requesting a waiver of patent restrictions for Covid-19 vaccines.
Also, the wealthiest countries will face a health problem if billions of people still wait years to be vaccinated. For instance, in the United Kingdom, where vaccine coverage is high, health officials monitor a virus variant that emerged in South Africa, where vaccine coverage is low. The variant may counteract the effects of vaccines, causing even those who have been vaccinated to become ill. Besides, the government has pledged $4 billion to Covax, a national vaccination alliance. So far, the European Union has contributed nearly $1 billion. However, Covax only plans to vaccinate 20% of citizens in the world’s poorest countries this year, and even that would be a $2 billion deficit.
Potential Advancements for Peer Markets
Meanwhile, as part of their vaccine diplomacy, Russia and China have vowed to fill the gap. According to Airfinity, a science analytics firm, and UNICEF, The Gamaleya Institute in Moscow has established partnerships with producers from Kazakhstan to South Korea. Similar agreements have been reached in the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, and Indonesia by Chinese vaccine manufacturers. Manufacturers from Canada to Bangladesh, on the other hand, say that they can produce vaccines but are unable to do so due to a lack of patent licensing agreements. Companies have exchanged secrets with new producers in just months when the price is right, ramping up demand and retrofitting factories.
The patent (US20200061185A1) is owned by the U.S. Government, Dartmouth College, and the Scripps Research Institute. Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, CureVac, and Pfizer-BioNTech – the COVID vaccines from these companies rely on the said patented invention. BioNTech has already paid the U.S. government to license the technology. With the grant of this break-through patent, the U.S government will have the capacity to dictate terms concerning the worldwide expansion of vaccine production by the vaccine-developing companies – it will be interesting to see how the Biden administration leverages this ground-breaking patent.
Addressing patents will not, by itself, be sufficient to address the vaccine discrepancy. Factory retrofitting or construction would take time. It would be necessary to produce more raw materials. New production lines will need to be approved by regulators. Giving someone a list of ingredients, like giving someone a list of ingredients for a complicated meal, is no substitute for showing them how to make it. Last year, the WHO established a technology pool to enable businesses to share know-how with manufacturers in low-income countries to resolve these issues. There has not been a single vaccine corporation that has agreed to participate. Governments have refrained and disregarded years of recommendations as well as clear calls from the World Health Organization to incorporate contract language that would have guaranteed doses for developing countries or allowed businesses to share their expertise and patents. Officials from Western health organizations have stated that they never wanted to exclude others. However, with large death tolls in their own nations, the priority was on the home.