Saturday, May 8, 2021

Suspending IP rights will not help end pandemic

Biden Administration Should Absolutely Reject Patent Waivers for COVID-19 Vaccines | Reason - Ronald Bailey: 

May 4, 2021 - "A coalition of developing countries led by India and South Africa are pushing the World Trade Organization to suspend patent rights to the vaccines, arguing that doing so will enable them to get more shots to poor people across the globe. Progressives in the U.S., such as Senators Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) are arguing that suspending the patents is a moral imperative. However, suspending patents is not a moral imperative, it's moral grandstanding and would do nothing to get the vaccines faster to the people who need them.

"The World Health Organization lists fewer than 25 countries capable of manufacturing any vaccines whatsoever, much less the novel and highly complex COVID-19 vaccines.... Just lifting patent protection would do nothing to actually enable most poor countries to ramp up production of these vaccines, and it would discourage companies from continuing to make them now and in the future.

"[T]he vaccine makers are on track to supply enough COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate 7 billion people by the end of this year. It would be much more helpful for progressives to put aside their vendetta against the pharmaceutical companies and instead concentrate on figuring out the logistics of getting vaccines to people in poor countries."
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The Biden administration says it will support lifting patent protections to help produce more vaccines globally | New York Times:

May 5, 2021 - "The Biden administration on Wednesday came out in support of waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines.... Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, announced the administration’s position in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

"'This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,' she said. 'The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.'"
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Patents are Not the Problem! | Marginal Revolution - Alex Tabarrok:

May 6, 2021 - "Waive IP protections. So simple. Why didn’t I think of that???

"Patents are not the problem. All of the vaccine manufacturers are trying to increase supply as quickly as possible. Billions of doses are being produced – more than ever before in the history of the world. Licenses are widely available. AstraZeneca have licensed their vaccine for production with manufactures around the world, including in India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, China and South Africa. J&J’s vaccine has been licensed for production by multiple firms in the United States as well as with firms in Spain, South Africa and France. Sputnik has been licensed for production by firms in India, China, South Korea, Brazil and pending EMA approval with firms in Germany and France. Sinopharm has been licensed in the UAE, Egypt and Bangladesh. Novavax has licensed its vaccine for production in South Korea, India, and Japan and it is desperate to find other licensees but technology transfer isn’t easy and there are limited supplies of raw materials....

"Plastic bags are a bigger bottleneck than patents. The US embargo on vaccine supplies to India was precisely that the Biden administration used the DPA [Defense Production Act] to prioritize things like bioreactor bags and filters to US suppliers and that meant that India’s Serum Institute was having trouble getting its production lines ready for Novavax. CureVac, another potential mRNA vaccine, is also finding it difficult to find supplies due to US restrictions (which means supplies are short everywhere). As Derek Lowe said: 'Abolishing patents will not provide more shaker bags or more Chilean tree bark, nor provide more of the key filtration materials needed for production. These processes have a lot of potential choke points and rate-limiting steps in them, and there is no wand that will wave that complexity away.'

"Technology transfer has been difficult for AstraZeneca ... and their vaccine uses relatively well understood technology. The mRNA technology is new and has never before been used to produce at scale. Pfizer and Moderna had to build factories and distribution systems from scratch. There are no mRNA factories idling on the sidelines. If there were, Moderna or Pfizer would be happy to license since they are producing in their own factories 24 hours a day, seven days a week.... Moderna has said that they won’t enforce their patents during the pandemic but no one has stepped up to produce because no one else can.

"The US trade representative’s announcement is virtue signaling to the anti-market left and will do little to nothing to increase supply."
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