COVID Vaccine Patent Waiver: Urgency to Vaccinate Masses Despite Quality Concerns

by Eli Mshomi
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The need to curtail the coronavirus has reached the power corridors, where the urgency is to take extraordinary measures now by putting profit ambitions aside.

One such measure is the COVID vaccine patent waiver so that the most disadvantaged population of the world can be inoculated at a rapid pace.

As the United States uplifts its game of vaccine diplomacy, the Biden administration is in favor of a patent waiver to help the needy people immediately.

The talks of this waiver initiated on the demands of South Africa and India,  but it has gained widespread attention from the global power circles, including the White House.

While the European Commission negates the demand, its approval from the European parliament has given it widespread support from countries across the globe.

Now as the world seeks global herd immunity, what are the pros and cons of the COVID vaccine patent waiver? Let’s see.

COVID Vaccine Patent Waiver: An Absolute Necessity to Expand the Vaccination Base Horizontally

Intellectual property protection is codified in trade-related aspects of the World Trade Organization and was used to restrict developing countries from manufacturing their domestic COVID-19 vaccines and exporting them to other countries.

This pursuit of profit at the expense of humanitarianism is costing people their lives and delaying the world from achieving immunity. 

With the suspension of this protection, countries around the globe will be able to manufacture and distribute their domestic vaccines.

The US government has proposed a temporary suspension of intellectual property protection, which has also attracted support from some other countries.

Still, it could not be suspended until all members of the World Trade Organization agree to do so.

If this patent waiver happens, the vaccine heavyweights like Pfizer and Moderna will have to grant access to their Intellectual Property (IP) under the patent waiver so that small manufacturers could also allocate resources for the manufacturing of vaccines.

Hence the waiver aims to expand the vaccine production facilities horizontally instead of putting too much burden on the existing manufacturers.

The issue of vaccine apartheid also demands an immediate waiver as most African people won’t be able to get inoculated otherwise.

This is one of the reasons why South Africa has raised its voice for the patent waiver. 

While the vaccination process is in full flow in the western nations, third world countries are still struggling to touch double-digits in the vaccination process. 

The only intent of the COVID vaccine patent waiver is to enable vulnerable countries to make and distribute vaccines.

Despite an UN-led alliance, COVAX, many countries cannot procure the required capacity of vaccines, resulting in an unvaccinated population.

This phenomenon is threatening the countries with large populations to have another outbreak of COVID.

For instance, as India started coming out of the current mess, the fear is still high that another layer can grasp the country if the vaccination process is not catalyzed. 

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So, the COVID vaccine patent waiver would help the countries develop the vaccines without bearing the enormous manufacturing costs.

The dangerous outbreak in most countries is introducing new variants of the coronavirus. As the virus contacts more and more bodies, the chances of mutation increase manifold. 

So, a COVID vaccine patient waiver will help to curtail this mutation as well. These mutations are so dangerous that the Black fungus cases of the Indian variant are increasing and tend to bring the world to constraints once again.

A COVID vaccine patent waiver is also vital to inoculate the vaccine-hesitant people as much as possible.

With time, the conspiracy theories are increasing regarding the vaccine, stopping many people from getting vaccinated.

Similarly, the countries like Tanzania, where the pro-vaccination government has just been installed, the vaccination rates are drastically low. These countries demand urgent attention, which is not possible without a patent waiver.

Cons of Vaccine Patent Waiver: Low-Quality Vaccine Makes Stakeholders Worried
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The primary concern for vaccine patent waiver remains the quality of the vaccine. The World Health Organization has specific standards to accept the vaccine, without which it cannot be considered safe.

The vaccine patent waiver will help everyone manufacture their vaccine version, hence compromising the quality.

This will risk the lives of the people and alienate many people to run away from vaccines.

The pro-conspiracy groups will get the advantage to spread rumors regarding the efficacy of the vaccines. 

Similarly, just to increase their say in vaccine diplomacy, many countries can come face to face in producing more vaccines to get the upper hand against their regional or global rivals.

If the vaccine patent waiver is not used wisely, it can help spread new variants in the world. 

The global division can also rise as countries can impose travel restrictions for people not vaccinated from their desired brand.

 

Final Thoughts

The inclination of the Biden administration and the Director-General of the World Trade Organization toward patent waivers is an encouraging sign, which can also force other countries to follow the route.

However, this waiver must be followed strictly, as its overuse is also dangerous to the world. 

Meanwhile, countries across the globe should also try to have their hands on other innovative projects in parallel, including vaccine lottery and vaccine passports that will encourage people to receive their injections.

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