CEPR Spotlight: Vaccines, Patents and Copyrights

December 20, 2021

CEPR Co-founder and Senior Economist Dean Baker has written extensively on how government-granted patent monopolies allow pharmaceutical companies to extract billions from everyday people using drug research that is already publicly funded at a fraction of the cost. He has long been a critic of patents and copyrights, pointing to other incentives and means of funding the development of drugs and other medical necessities. This work is particularly relevant today as the world grapples with the effects of uncontrolled covid 19 in many developing countries.

CEPR welcomed the announcement in May that the Biden Administration would support a waiver on intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate access to COVID vaccines, Both Dean and Deborah James, CEPR’s Director of International Programs, and coordinator of the Our World Is Not For Sale Network (which fights harmful agreements and proposals at the WTO), celebrated the announcement, but cautioned that there needs to be further suspension of patent rights on treatments, tests, equipment and other goods as well.

Dean argued for this approach at the start of the pandemic and has written numerous pieces since, including in a New York Times op-ed. He has also proposed a global vaccine summit to foster international cooperation and “to take inventory of the world’s supply of effective vaccines (including those from China and Russia), and the potential for increasing production of each of them.” 

As new mutations continue to prolong the COVID 19 pandemic it is imperative that we address the inequalities and inefficiencies inherent in our patent and copyright system. Finally, people around the world are starting to listen to what Dean has been saying, over and over again, for years. Our sincere gratitude to all of you who have donated to our Spotlight campaign so far. If you haven’t already, please donate to CEPR today and help us to continue to fight for progressive policies that will save lives and reduce inequality.

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