OTTAWA, ON (May 24, 2021): The Macdonald-Laurier Institute joins an international coalition of 27 think tanks to call on governments to reject a proposal at the World Trade Organisation to cancel intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines.
IP has been the unsung hero of the pandemic, underpinning the ecosystem that enabled the private sector to create new vaccines so quickly. The Joint Declaration credits IP for the research collaborations and manufacturing partnerships all over the world that have accelerated vaccine production.
As MLI Senior Fellow Richard C. Owens wrote in a recent op-ed, “It is entirely illogical to say, as many do, that a massive public health crisis is not the time for patents. That is completely wrong. Now is precisely the time when upholding the integrity of the system that serves us so well is so important.”
“If we undermine a system precisely when it’s needed, it won’t be there to serve us in the future. IP isn’t the problem, it’s the solution; stealing stuff isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”
The reality is, IP is not currently limiting access to vaccines or other therapies or devices. Indeed, as Owens notes, companies have gone to great lengths to provide wide access to their IP.
Rivals have shared proprietary compounds, platforms and technologies to develop COVID vaccines in record time. Manufacturers are currently on track to make 12 billion doses by the end of 2021 – potentially sufficient to achieve global herd immunity. Clearly, intellectual property rights are not inhibiting this global effort, but are instead enabling this historic vaccine success.
At such a crucial juncture, the international coalition warns that a zero IP world would be a giant step backward, discouraging partnerships and discouraging companies from refining their existing vaccines to combat new COVID-19 variants.
“With the precedent set at the WTO, few companies will want to invest in new vaccines when the next pandemic comes. This would put the world at the mercy of government labs to research, develop, and manufacture vaccines. That's a scary prospect,” says Owens.
“Intellectual property rights matter; they will help us end this pandemic and help us prepare better for the next one,” he adds.
Read the full declaration and see its supporters here.
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