Sunday, June 13

Why doesn’t releasing patents mean there are vaccines for everyone?


New York Correspondent

Updated:

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The suspension of patents is cA necessary but not sufficient condition for mass production of vaccines generic drugs against the new coronavirus. Here are six reasons why it won’t be a short-term solution.

WTO consensus

US support for the temporary lifting of patents on Covid-19 vaccines is a formidable boost to a decision that countries like India and South Africa have demanded since October. But it takes more than that. But for it the World Trade Organization (WTO) must reach a decision on the matter in a consensual way and it is already seen that there are different positions, even within the European Union.

It won’t be a quick process

The US trade representative, Katherine Tai, warned from the first moment of the announcement of the support of her Administration to lift the patents that “it will take time” due to the need for a consensual decision and the complexity of the processes to produce vaccines. The overwhelmed situation in India and the dramatic increase in cases in South American countries has served to redouble the pressure on Washington to take the step in intellectual property, but it does not mean that it will have a short-term impact.

Shortage of vaccines and their ingredients

The pharmaceutical industry has defended that the bottleneck to obtain more doses is mainly in its ingredients. «The problem is in the materials, that there is a shortage. They are very specialized materials, they are not simple chemicals, ”Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, recently told Yahoo Finance. According to their predictions, if a company received the technology that its pharmaceutical company manages or others that have gotten the vaccine, it would take at least two years to be able to trigger production. And yet, in the industry’s view, global competition for those ingredients would increase, which would not contribute to streamlining dosage manufacturing.

Obstacle to innovation in the future

The US decision is surprising because it has always positioned itself as a staunch defender of intellectual property protection. Tai defended the position as “Exceptional measures for an exceptional situation”, But the pharmaceutical industry and investors in the US have received it with great concern. “Who will develop another vaccine next time?” Brent Saunders, former CEO of drug company Allergan, protested on Twitter.

The industry ensures that the decision discourages investment in innovation in the future, But forget that a good part of the projects for the vaccine against covid come with financial support from the public coffers, in many variants: investment for development, contracting of non-refundable doses, collaboration with public laboratories, etc.

The fastest solution: share

The US decision comes at a time of mounting pressures in the face of profound inequality in the response to the pandemic: while in the US There are plenty of doses and the authorities have to offer beer or donuts to the reluctant To get vaccinated, vaccination in developing countries is very slow. The US has contracted hundreds of millions of vaccines more than it will need. Last week he pledged to donate 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca. Now the industry demands from developed countries that, instead of raise patents, redouble efforts on production lines existing and share their doses. At the same time, of course, many more benefits are secured than if patents are released and vaccines are produced elsewhere.

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