Why Moderna, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are arguing over who owns the Covid vaccine

It has been more than a year since the landmark proposal drew attention to the issue of the Covid mRNA vaccine patent being dropped. But what many observers fail to see is that giving up intellectual property (IP) rights to Covid vaccines is an effective way to stop the pandemic.

Patent drop advocates such as Harsha Tirumurthy, an associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, argue that the problem is at the root of why vaccines are less available in low-income countries.

“It limits the production of this product or this vaccine,” Tirumurthy said, adding that he keeps the price “artificially high enough that it limits the ability of other countries in the world.”

But critics counter that the elimination of patents will not automatically improve the global distribution of vaccines.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was among those who originally expressed against the abandonment of the patent, emphasizing that in addition to patents, there are problems that need to be addressed first. Gates later changed his position and now fully supports the idea of ​​temporarily waiving patent protection for coronavirus vaccines.

“Having a billion vaccines in stock at a developing lab is not going to help us get back to normal,” said Heath Naquin, vice president of government and capital affairs at the University City Science Center, a nonprofit research organization in Philadelphia. .

“Abandoning a patent by itself doesn’t really solve the underlying problems in many developing countries that aren’t about the recipe, they’re about how you get it out to people.”

However, experts on both sides of the debate seriously doubt that Covid-19 vaccine patents will ever be dropped.

“I think that’s what we most hoped for last year when a proposal was put forward in the WTO and the Biden administration supported it,” Tirumurthy said.

“But we had European countries that objected to the abandonment of patents.”

Watch the video to learn more about why vaccine patents exist and the ongoing debate about their impact on the Covid pandemic.

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