On Wednesday, U.S. President Biden indicated his support in the waiver of intellectual property rights of Covid-19 vaccines. Amid the devastating spike in infection cases in India, some argue that a patent waiver would allow more companies to produce vaccines and thus theoretically increase supply.
After having previously opposed a patent waiver proposal of India and South Africa at the WTO, the WTO and WHO heads have welcomed the U.S. reversal in that matter. The EU remains indecisive, but, according to Commissioner Von der Leyen, is open to discuss the proposal.
The drug makers, who have developed the vaccines in record time, are not convinced that this proposal is fair or realistic. They point toward the complex and unstable supply chain of vaccine procurement as well as safety compromises and diminishing incentives for pharma that has enabled the quick vaccine development in the first place.
Most industry experts share the drug companies' perspectives, stating that the major problem is not intellectual property but the limited resources available for vaccine production. An effect of the waiver - if passed by the WTO - would not be noticeable before 2022.
Shares of the major Covid-19 vaccine producers Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Novovax (NASDAQ: NVAX) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) have all traded lower in the news.
What do you think? Could the patent waiver be a crucial first step in propping up global vaccine supply or is it only a symbolic move? Moreover, could this be a precedent for the general treatment of intellectual property rights?