Anglo and US leaders are set to temporarily waive the COVID-19 vaccine patent, with the US and EU supporting a temporary suspension. The arrangement has been proposed by the WTO (World Trade Organization), India and South Africa. The temporary suspension will open the doors to an increase in production, and therefore distribution, among populations very much at the bottom of the global economic hierarchy. For example, to date, the number of distributions in Kyrgyzstan (population six million) is 1000. War-ravaged Yemen (population 29 million) has 19,000 inhabitants.

Despite the initial defensive posture adopted by a handful of developed countries, which continues to prevent effective international distribution of vaccines, politicians are beginning to speak out. Katherine Tai, the United States Trade Representative, courageously expressed the philosophy at the center of the campaign: “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action.” Echoing Ms. Tai’s assertions, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO (World Health Organization), signified the United States’ desire to mark a “historic and monumental moment in the ongoing fight against COVID -19. It is increasingly likely that the WTO will hold a pivotal meeting on the subject in early June.

A pervasive, though little highlighted, problem with the morally bankrupt position of vaccine hoarding is the presence of market failure. This is most evident in the form of monopoly power and asymmetric information. The first favors the producer by assuring him astronomical profits, while the second disadvantages the vaccine recipient through barriers to access and higher prices. Such an arrangement aims to artificially ration the vaccine supply, thus leading to higher prices to the detriment of the consumer. The information asymmetry is more evident in the refusal to share intellectual property rights by vaccine producers. AstraZeneca, for example, refused to join the WHO’s COVID-19 Tech Access Pool – a collective of pharmaceutical companies promoting knowledge sharing for effective consumer access. A refusal to participate restricts the offer and blocks access to cutting-edge innovative methods and knowledge. Such information is vital for scientific and political communities outside the bubble of first world nations.

Perhaps most important in the movement to temporarily relinquish the COVID-19 vaccine patent was laying the groundwork for the vaccine’s remarkable success. It was facilitated by a taxpayer-funded research and development project led by the University of Oxford in the UK. Basically, the Gates Foundation acted as an intermediary for AstraZeneca. He dived into the University’s pipeline and successfully persuaded the institution to introduce a patent structure, which effectively made fair distribution nearly impossible. Given this cynical act of profit and the inevitable bureaucracy inherent in global intellectual property law, the WHO estimates that the first material effects will be felt until the summer of 2022.

Additionally, The Lancet, a leading peer-reviewed medical journal, states that vaccines should be produced on a large scale and widely deployed in local communities. In addition, it reinforces the fact that some communities may not have the necessary functional distribution networks. It is futile to expand the distribution channels for COVID-19 vaccines, through patent waivers, if marginalized and small-scale communities – largely in the poorest countries – lack immediate means and resources. logistics to ensure efficient delivery.



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