Suspending IP of COVID-19 vaccines is a “destructive idea”: WSJ

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April 24, 2021 11:18 AM

Suspending the intellectual property rights of COVID-19 vaccines, as proposed by India and South Africa at the WTO last year and found support among progressive US Democrats, is a "destructive idea", a leading American financial daily has said.

Since expenditure on vaccine is one-off expenditure outside the normal Centrally-Sponsored Schemes of the health ministry, separate funding ensures easy monitoring and management of these funds.

Suspending the intellectual property rights of COVID-19 vaccines, as proposed by India and South Africa at the WTO last year and found support among progressive US Democrats, is a “destructive idea”, a leading American financial daily has said.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board on Friday wrote against the proposed move, and supported Senator Chris Coons who earlier this week said the intellectual property (IP) rights are under external and internal attack. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver proposed by India and South Africa in October 2020 would temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers and allow countries to locally manufacture COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines, catering to the increased demand.

Dozens of Democratic lawmakers, mostly progressive-thinking, have written to President Joe Biden in support of the World Trade Organisation move pushed by India and South Africa.

South Africa and India last year tossed a grenade at vaccine IP rights at the WTO with a resolution that would allow low-income countries to break patents during the pandemic, The Wall Street Journal said.

Breaking intellectual property (IP) protections would risk “losing the private sector investment and development that’s critical to this moment of personalised medicine, of breakthrough vaccines, of breakthrough medical diagnostics,” Coons, a confidant of President Biden, warned recently at a US think-tank meet. “Frankly, I think the world would suffer as a result,” the financial daily quoted Coons. “Once released, trade secrets on biologics are gone for good. Handing China the IP for the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines would allow it to recreate the technology for other diseases,” the daily said.

“Let’s hope this is one issue on which Mr Biden ignores the left and heeds Mr Coons,” said The Wall Street Journal, adding that it was good to see some resistance within the Democratic Party to the “destructive idea” of suspending intellectual property of COVID-19 vaccines.

At the think-tank meet, Coons had explained: “Some of the barriers to scaling up manufacturing and distribution of vaccines and therapeutics at the scale and on the timeline the world needs are just that: barriers to manufacturing and distribution.”

Coons said “the willingness of the key inventors and developers” of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to license, manufacture and distribute them “at cost or as donations” suggests that “it’s not IP rights that are really centrally at issue.” The Delaware Senator said “if anything, IP has enabled historic licensing and partnerships” and been a facilitator of critical, cutting-edge innovation.” The White House is yet to comment on the issue.

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