Should vaccines be patentable? | ECONOMY | DW

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s call to revoke patent rights on coronavirus vaccines has had a major impact on the market. Within 24 hours, the stocks of vaccine manufacturers lost value in the stock market. BioNTech shares fell 12 percent on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and CureVac fell 10 percent.

The World Health Organization welcomed the US speech, calling it a “historic decision.” The European Union has also announced that the suspension of patent rights is open for discussion. What are the arguments of those who support and oppose the abolition of patent rights in this public debate?

The two countries affected by the pandemic at the World Health Organization, India and South Africa, have proposed suspending the patent rights for coronavirus vaccines. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International support the proposal, while pharmaceutical companies oppose it.

Is this an obstacle or a benefit?

At the heart of the debate is the question: Will the abolition of vaccine patent rights really work in the fight against the coronary pandemic, or will it hinder the development and production of vaccines that are vital to humanity?

Ellen ‘t Hoen, director of the Law on Medicines and Policy, who advocates easier access to medicines, supports a special regulation that allows patent rights to be suspended. “A lot of big vaccine manufacturers have been created. All the production facilities have to be used. To do that, those who have the know-how and the technology have to pass it on,” Hoen said.

Representatives of underdeveloped countries and non-governmental organizations also say that the World Health Organization’s intellectual property rules prevent the spread of vaccine production in poor countries.

BioNTech’s production facility in Marburg

“Suspension of patent rights does not facilitate the purchase of vaccines”

Thomas Cueni, executive director of IFPMA, an international umbrella organization for drug companies, disagrees. Cueni told DW that the suspension of patent rights “would not increase the supply of vaccines by a single dose in the short term.” He noted that “the complexity and degree of vaccine production has been neglected” and that “vaccine manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies are already cooperating with developing countries to increase vaccine capacity.”

Han Steutel, chairman of the German Association of Investigative Drug Manufacturers, agrees. “Mandatory licenses are useless,” Steutel told ZDF television. “It took about eight months to start production. It was necessary,” Steutel said, noting that BioNTech had bought an existing production facility in Marburg in September.

Elisabeth Massute, Doctors Without Borders, told ZDF that “profits should not be at the center of the business.” Massute said that there is no need to assume that there is no production potential in low-income countries, “These are there. In addition, Canadian producers tried to get licenses from producers, but failed.”

Pharmaceutical companies’ associations point out that there is a link between patent protection rights and research and development activities. It is suggested that companies find it attractive to invest in research because they have patent protection rights that guarantee future income. Because patent rights are protected, vaccine manufacturers have reportedly signed more than 200 technology transfer agreements for more vaccines in poor countries.

Deutschland |  Impfpass with Corona-Impfung

Dangerously unfair distribution

Proponents of patent protection. He argues that the problem is trade barriers and the lack of raw materials and parts needed for production. The EU Commission justified its position against the suspension of patent rights in late April. “The problem of access to vaccines will be solved not by the denial of patents, but by the lack of sufficient production capacity,” said the EU representative.

On the other hand, charities link inequality in the distribution of vaccines around the world with patent protection. According to the German charity Brot für die Welt, one in four people in prosperous countries is vaccinated against the coronavirus, compared to one in every 100 in poor countries. “This disproportion shows that there is an urgent need to stop the production of more vaccines and the intellectual property required under certain conditions,” he said.

U.S. Commerce Member Katherine Tai said Wednesday that Washington is committed to protecting intellectual property, but will defend a special exception to corona vaccines to end the pandemic within the World Health Organization. “This is a global health crisis,” Tai said, adding that “the emergency conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic require emergency measures.”

Andreas Rostek-Buetti

© Deutsche Welle Turkish

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