Published: 06th May 2021
What the FAQ: What is a vaccine patent? How will waiving it help India during the pandemic?
In today's What the FAQ segment, we talk about vaccine patent, who are supporting its waiver and how it will help India
The US administration on Wednesday joined calls for sharing of the technology behind COVID-19 vaccines to help speed up the production and decrease shortage. The Joe Biden administration said that it wants the vaccine patent to be waivered for easy manufacturing. Here we try to explain what a vaccine patent is, how it will help India and more.
What is a vaccine patent?
Patents give vaccine makers exclusive rights to manufacture the shot they developed. They are also free to charge a price that covers their research and development costs, but deep profit margins can be controversial during times of crisis, such as the ongoing pandemic. A patent waiver would allow any company with the required capacity to start manufacturing the shot, even without an agreement with the original developer.
Why is waiving patents on COVID-19 vaccines important?
At present, only drug companies which own patents are authorised to manufacture the vaccines. The lifting of patents will allow the recipes to be shared and there will no longer be an embargo — basically once the formula is shared, any company which possesses the required technology and infrastructure can produce vaccines. This will lead to cheaper and more generic versions of the Coronavirus vaccines. It will also mean two things — vaccines will be more affordable and this will be a big step in overcoming the vaccine shortage specifically across India.
Which countries wanted the patents to be removed?
In October 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal to the WTO to suspend vaccine patents for the duration of the pandemic and share the formula for jabs prepared by AstraZeneca and Pzifer. The proposal argued that this would make vaccines more affordable and allow poorer countries to acquire more doses easily. The proposal was supported by more than 100 countries, mostly lower- and middle-income nations, and strongly opposed by some of the world’s largest economies including the European Union and the United States. World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in March called for vaccine patent rights to be waived until the end of the pandemic, stating that these “unprecedented times” warrant the move.