The United States wants the patent on coronavaccins to be released. American trade envoy Katherine Tai tells the international news agency Bloomberg that President Biden wants to persuade other members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to support a proposal on this.
This proposal comes from developing countries within the WTO. They have been arguing for the release of the patents for a long time. This would mean that other companies could counterfeit existing corona vaccines without being fined. Residents of developing countries can then be vaccinated faster, they argue.
India and South Africa, in particular, are pushing for a temporary lifting of patents. These two countries have been severely affected by the coronapandemic.
Change of course
Previously, the US rejected the developing countries‘ proposal. But now Tai says: ‘We are in favour of lifting protection, we are in favour of what the proposers of this proposal want to achieve. That‘s more access, more production and more injections.”
The European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Switzerland, Brazil and Norway are against the proposal. It is still unclear whether they will change their position after the US’s change of course.
According to lawyer Ellen‘t Hoen, specialised in the intellectual property of medicines, there must always be consensus among all Member States at the WTO. “The US and the EU are normally bothered by these issues. If one of the two changes course, it can produce a quick result.”
Top man Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of WHO WHO is optimistic: on Twitter he speaks of “a crucial moment in the fight against corona”.
According to critics of the proposal and the pharmaceutical industry itself, releasing the vaccine patents is ineffective, partly because countries still do not have the ‘prescription‘ of a vaccine. Furthermore, only a small number of countries would have enough capacity and resources to actually produce the vaccines. Pharmaceuticals are also afraid that without a patent they will have less money left to innovate.
Proponents say, however, that vaccines should be public good, says lawyer’t Hoen. “The vaccines have all been developed thanks to large public investment. The financial risk of the development of vaccines was not on the shoulders of companies.”