A health worker administered a vaccine for Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 on April 26 in Bidderford, Maine. Joseph Prezioso / AFP / Getty Images
The U.S. should join forces to force vaccine makers to forego intellectual property rights in coronavirus vaccines and treatments so more countries can start manufacturing, a group of more than 300 public health experts said Friday.
“We are public health faculties, administrators, students and practitioners taking action on the urgent need for the United States to support the temporary waiver of some trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) proposed by India and South Africa World Trade Organization (WTO) during the COVID-19 emergency, ”the group said in a letter to the Biden government on Friday.
“Despite widespread support for its adoption, the Trump administration has resisted the waiver and blocked its adoption with a handful of other WTO signatories.
“We urge you to reverse this stance by supporting the swift adoption of the temporary waiver and helping ensure that all countries have access to sufficient vaccines to end the global pandemic and get the world economy going again.”
The group, led by Columbia University Professors Terry McGovern and Chelsea Clinton, said the so-called TRIPS waiver would allow vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to be manufactured locally. “If countries can produce locally, it will accelerate access to vaccines and treatments, prevent unnecessary deaths, and enable stronger and faster economic recovery,” they write.
“Until vaccines, tests, and treatments are available to everyone, everywhere, we are constantly risking new varieties, drug resistance, and greater loss of life and suffering at home and around the world.”
It was an ongoing struggle. Vaccine manufacturers have argued that intellectual property rights are not the problem, but proponents note that it is not enough for companies to promise not to pursue their patent rights.
“If countries don’t work together and share medical technology to speed up production, then for many countries – especially developing countries – there will simply not be adequate supplies of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments to manage COVID-19. Many countries may not have access to widespread COVID-19 vaccination until 2024, ”they write.