WASHINGTON—The debate is growing over whether developed countries including the United States should temporarily waive intellectual property (IP) and patent rights on COVID-19 vaccines to expedite global vaccination efforts.
The Biden administration on May 5 announced that it would support the waiver of those protections for vaccines “to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution” around the world to end the pandemic.
Experts, however, believe waiving patents wouldn’t resolve the vaccine shortage problem, due to the complexity of producing the mRNA-based vaccines. They also argue that the move would allow countries such as China to exploit American innovation and technology to their advantage.
“There is absolutely no need or compelling rationale” for the IP waiver, according to Stephen Ezell, vice president at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology think tank.
Once a country forces the disclosure of know-how, there would be no control over who has access to it, he told The Epoch Times.
This will not only affect the COVID-19 vaccines, but also non-COVID-related drugs and therapies using mRNA technology.
“What’s absurd is their assertion that such a waiver wouldn’t lead to China getting their hands on technologies innovative companies have invested billions to develop; and instead of China getting through stealing it, our own government would be complicit in compelling its handover,” Ezell said.
Traditional vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into people’s bodies to trigger an immune response. Vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, however, use messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) that teaches cells how to make a protein to trigger an immune response when someone gets infected.
The mRNA vaccine technology established a new platform for vaccine and gene-therapy industries, and while some Chinese firms have also started to develop their vaccines using this new technology, Western companies are still leaders in this space. China also doesn’t have any prior experience in industrial-scale production of mRNA vaccine, according to Sean Lin, a microbiologist and a former lab director of the viral disease branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
BY EMEL AKAN