Share the Intellectual Property on COVID-19
Intellectual Property must serve the global good, rather than humanity serving the interests of a few private companies. And in the case of COVID-19, the global good is not in doubt: rapid worldwide immunization, in order to save lives, prevent the emergence of new variants, and end the pandemic.
NEW YORK – The governments of South Africa, India, and dozens of other developing countries are calling for the rights on intellectual property (IP), including vaccine patents, to be waived to accelerate the worldwide production of supplies to fight COVID-19. They are absolutely correct. IP for fighting COVID-19 should be waived, and indeed actively shared among scientists, companies, and nations.
The pharmaceutical industry and the governments of several vaccine-producing countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission, have been resisting the IP waiver, while 150 public leaders and experts have sent an open letter to US President Joe Biden in support of it. There is no longer any question about who is right. Given the surge of COVID-19 in several regions, most recently in India, the continuing emergence of new and deadly variants of the virus, and the inability of the current vaccine producers to keep pace with global needs, an IP waiver or its equivalent has become a practical urgent need as well as a moral imperative.
As a general principle, IP should not stand in the way of scaling up production to fight COVID-19 or any other public health emergency. We need more countries to be producing vaccines, test kits, and other needed commodities. IP-related delays could mean millions more COVID-19 deaths and more viral mutations that sweep across the entire world population, possibly infecting people who have already been vaccinated.