my view

Waiving the COVID-19 patent would not result in increased supply of vaccines

By MICHAEL OATES
Posted 6/2/21

While the Biden administration’s support of a patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines is a noble sentiment, the situation is far more complex and could result in long-term problems with innovation, …

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my view

Waiving the COVID-19 patent would not result in increased supply of vaccines

Posted

While the Biden administration’s support of a patent waiver on COVID-19 vaccines is a noble sentiment, the situation is far more complex and could result in long-term problems with innovation, diplomacy and American interests around the world.

This should not be a partisan issue. We are all in agreement that getting more people vaccinated as soon as possible is critically important. 

The patents, however, are not the biggest obstacle in the process. The COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA technology that requires raw ingredients, safety procedures and a highly skilled manufacturing workforce. This is a complex and difficult process. In addition, many countries do not yet have the infrastructure to provide an effective distribution system for the vaccine.

We believe a solution path is clear. We need to support and continue to help expand existing manufacturing to ramp up vaccine supply and develop a skilled workforce and reliable distribution lines throughout the world.

Removing patent protections would offer no guarantees that other countries and companies, who would simply be handed the results of billions of dollars of research, would practice the stringent safety protocols essential to mass-producing the vaccines. Additionally, without a controlled and coordinated approach, the process and input products needed for production could become scarce and result in the opposite effect: limiting the ability of the original manufacturers to continue at their current production pace.

The removal of patent protection also would have long-term repercussions on innovation. Why would investors pour billions of dollars into drug research if they believe their commitment to public health will be undermined by their government? 

We are not alone in this assessment. A litany of high-profile, influential organizations have decried waiving patent protections:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “Make no mistake: This move will undermine the global fight against COVID-19 and it will diminish our ability to prepare for and respond to the next pandemic.” The organization, the world’s largest business-advocacy organization, also urged the administration to “work with the business community to deliver on the President’s recent promise to make America the ‘arsenal of vaccines.’”

The National Association of Manufacturers, the largest manufacturing association in the United States, said, “Rather than rushing to suspend critical protections and standards, investing in even greater production capacity would result in expanded vaccine access. Pharmaceutical manufacturers continue to work around the clock to help the world get armed against COVID-19. We should do everything possible to build on that heroic work, not undermine the protections that make this innovation possible in the first place.”

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, which advocates internationally for rapid biotech innovation that’s equitably harnessed for health, sustainability and justice, said the strategy was myopic. It was disappointed the “administration has chosen to support waiving critical protections for American ingenuity and to delay the equitable delivery of needed COVID-19 vaccines to people around the globe.”

Biopharmaceutical manufacturers have already proven, through international alliances, that they are committed to world health. We can continue to help the world as the Biden administration did by invoking the Defense Production Act to ramp up output. We also can help provide training for workers and help create an effective international distribution system to get the shots in arms as quickly as possible.

Removal of patent protection is ill-informed, compromises safety and stifles innovation. It will not solve the problem; rather, it will lead to more problems down the road. 

Michael Oates is president and CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp.

Learn more at www.HVEDC.com.

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J.R. Gray

History disagrees with you, but I'm sure the profiteers who are licking their chops at the amount of profit they could make off this deadly virus are all applauding your stance. When Jonas Salk decided not to patent the Polio vaccine, the results were quite successful. Perhaps the argument should be that medicine should not be privatized at all. The idea of someone investing in medicine in order to reap billions of dollars in profit is an inhumane and gratuitously wasteful stance. Profit is the result of charging more than your product costs and paying those who produce it less than the value of their production. If medicine were done for the public good, doctors would be making decisions to keep their patients healthy instead of being forced by the insurance companies to promote and peddle the pharmaceutical-of-the-day in order to hook patients on a long term drug dependency and funnel their often meager income to the already filthy rich.

Nearly every society around the world gets this, and so do most Americans, according to the Gallup polls showing the majority of Americans favor Medicare-for-All. In many indigenous cultures, people would pay the local "health care provider" a stipend of sorts, as long as they were healthy, as soon as they were sick, they stopped paying, guaranteeing that their medicine provider's incentive was to keep them healthy. A stark contrast to the lack of care, wanton corruption, addiction, and price-gouging we see from today's health care-for-profit industry.

Sunday, June 6