Opinion: Waiving vaccine patents would imperil public health
The most far-reaching healthcare policy decision of 2021 won’t be made in Congress or the White House. It will be made at the World Trade Organization, which is considering a petition to waive all patent rights on COVID-19 vaccines.
If the petition is approved, Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other companies that raced to develop inoculations will be stripped of their intellectual property protections. The fruits of their productive labors, including massive financial investments made before and after the pandemic was officially declared a year ago, will be expropriated. They’ll be forced to hand over hard-won knowledge to companies that didn’t invest time or money into creating vaccines.
Supporters of the patent waiver — some U.S. lawmakers among them — say it will somehow speed up global vaccine distribution. There is zero evidence to support this claim. A Government Accountability Office report published in February found vaccine distribution was held up by manufacturing bottlenecks, supply chain issues and lack of a skilled workforce. One factor noticeably absent in the GAO report on vaccine delays: patents.