In October 2020, India and South Africa introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patent protections for coronavirus vaccines to boost the inadequate global supply. One year and about 3.5 million deaths later, negotiations remain at a standstill.
Marking the one-year anniversary of the waiver’s introduction, Amnesty International secretary-general Agnès Callamard stated that “Greed is triumphing over human life and human rights.”
Despite support from a majority of World Trade Organization members, hundreds of advocacy groups, and Nobel Prize-winning economists, opposition from a few rich countries — primarily the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada — have kept the movement at bay. And while the Biden administration endorsed the patent waiver in May, reports on a recent WTO intellectual property meeting show major European nations are emboldened to stand firm by the U.S.’s noncommittal attitude.
Without government pressure, vaccine manufacturers are under no obligation to share their recipes, as Moderna’s chairman and co-founder, Noubar Afeyan, recently made clear. Afeyan touted the American company’s production numbers from the past year and projected three billion doses next year, claiming Moderna alone offers the most efficient and reliable way to make high-quality vaccines within the next six to nine months.
“We think we are doing everything we can to help this pandemic,” added Afeyan, who is one of two Moderna founders to have been recently named on Forbes’s list of the 400 richest people in the U.S. He said the company — which has received billions of dollars from the U.S. government for development and doses of its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine — will continue to not enforce patent infringement during the pandemic, explaining, “We want that to be helping the world.”
Meanwhile, Moderna, which currently appears to be the world’s best defense against COVID-19, has been supplying its shots to almost exclusively wealthy nations, gaining billions in profit and leaving poorer countries waiting.
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