Suspending IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines a step in the right direction

A man gets the COVID-19 vaccine at the Professional Association Complex in Amman, on May 4, 2021
A man gets the COVID-19 vaccine at the Professional Association Complex in Amman, on May 4, 2021. (Photo: Tamara Abdin/Jordan News)
Despite their different manufacturing sources and successive approvals granted by pertinent international and national bodies, COVID-19 vaccines succeeded in gaining scientific recognition for being an effective means for combatting the pandemic. اضافة اعلان

Vaccine production companies are in fierce competition, which increases the “monopoly” on vaccine production. Moreover, there is a lack of fair distribution as well as a disparity of capabilities among countries in their ability to secure enough vaccines to immunize their citizens. These challenges combined, provoke a search for additional sources that can make adequate quantities of the vaccine available.

Such a prudent goal can only be achieved by increasing the volume of production to manufacture larger quantities of the vaccine, specifically for middle-and-low income countries on different continents. Unfortunately, the continued “monopoly” of vaccine production and the lack of required quantities, will doom these countries to a dim and unknown future. Such a destiny can be averted if less focus is given to the industrial and lucrative aspects of vaccine production, and if these big companies waive vaccine patent rights.

The international appeals have already begun to be heard at all levels, most recent of which was the statement of US President Joe Biden. In his statement, President Biden expressed support for the proposal to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents, which came in response to the pressures of American democratic lawmakers and more than a hundred countries. US trade representative to the World Trade Organization Catherine Tai also confirmed Washington’s commitment to a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines as an extraordinary measure despite the importance of such rights.

In turn, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom, expressed gratitude for the recent US statements supporting suspension of the intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines. This waiver, even temporarily, was previously called for by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a number of leaders and concerned parties. They called for the adoption an international initiative through communication with all international governmental and private bodies and institutions with the aim of accelerating global vaccine rollout and stopping its “monopoly”.

They considered this a critical measure needed to end the pandemic that the world is forcefully battling to end. Suspension of these intellectual property rights means that it’s time for these institutions, companies, and countries to have the human and scientific know-how to end and control the spread of the virus. Figures and statistics indicate that most vaccine production is used by rich countries, and only a small amount goes to low-income countries. According to recent news report, about one and a quarter of a billion doses were distributed throughout the world, with the share of 29 poor countries not exceeding 1 percent.

Suspension of intellectual property rights in relation to COVID-19 vaccines, even if temporary, will make the vaccine available to less fortunate countries, especially the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even many European countries. These countries could grant concessions and facilities for manufacturers and owners of well-known brands to produce vaccines, even if that is for a specific period of time. Consequently, an abundance of production quantities will be achieved, which in turn will enable the world to expand vaccination coverage to desired levels, which cannot be achieved in isolation from the inclusion of all countries with available and duly approved vaccines.

We hope to see this step materialize — the temporary suspension of patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines — quickly and effectively and not to get caught up in bureaucracy, lobbying, and matters that would delay such a positive demand. It should be stressed that vaccines are a global public good. It is a right held by all people of all segments, and the international community must abide by equity as a basic right, in accordance with international conventions and legislation.

Read more opinions