•Press Release Coronavirus Intellectual Property World World Trade Organization
Contact: Karen Conner, 202-281-4159, [email protected]
Washington, DC — The Biden administration’s announcement today that it will support a waiver on intellectual property protections at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to facilitate access to COVID vaccines around the world is welcome news, and could result in millions of lives being saved, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) experts said today. This action, with the necessary follow-through, will save thousands and potentially millions of lives by reducing the spread of vaccine resistant strains (which could, without containment, lead to a whole new round of infections and lockdowns in the United States).
CEPR Senior Economist Dean Baker has written extensively about patents, IP protections, and COVID vaccines, including in op-eds for The New York Times and The Nation. He said: “On the production part, we need full transparency on the process and inputs needed to manufacture all the vaccines so as to ramp up production as quickly as possible,” and noted: “We also need these manufacturers to share their production technology, much of which is now held as industrial secrets. The government can offer to pay Moderna and Pfizer to share this information by both publishing it and doing hands-on consulting with manufacturers elsewhere, to allow them to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
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: “Now let’s make sure US support includes waiving IP on equipment and inputs needed for vaccines; and waiving IP on diagnostics and medicines; as well as on copyrights on N95 masks, ventilators, etc., for resolving the heinous pandemic of COVID-19.”
The announcement today follows a global campaign for a “People’s Vaccine” and increasing pressure for the US to support a TRIPS waiver, something the US had originally declined to do.
Baker has 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.”
Baker has long been a critic of patents and copyrights, pointing to other incentives and means of funding the development of vaccines, medicines, medical equipment, and other necessities. He recently wrote:
To my view, there is no economic policy that is worse in its outcomes than our system of patent monopoly financing for prescription drugs. Yet, the question of alternatives almost never comes up in policy discussions.
With the pandemic costing millions of lives around the world and costing our economies trillions in lost output, we really should be asking whether the current system serves us well in producing vaccines, tests, and treatments.