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Biden's IP waiver for coronavirus vaccines is short-sighted, unnecessary

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 5/6/2021 Kaylee McGhee White
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The Biden administration announced this week that the U.S. would support a global effort to waive intellectual property protections on coronavirus vaccines to help other countries develop the vaccines more quickly. This is a short-sighted and dangerous decision on President Joe Biden’s part, one that could create more problems than it solves.

For starters, the pharmaceutical companies that developed highly effective and safe coronavirus vaccines in record time deserve to have their work rewarded, not stolen. The research and technology these companies developed is the only reason the world is able to move on from this pandemic. Allowing other countries to take it from them and copy it will cost them investors and the competitive advantage they deserve. We’re already seeing this play out: As soon as the Biden administration made the announcement, Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech saw their stock prices drop significantly.

Like it or not, financial incentives encourage innovation. Take those incentives away, and companies like Moderna and Pfizer are going to be much less eager to research new technology. Investors are going to be much less willing to fund it. That’s why several European countries have come out against the IP protections waiver. They understand how disastrous this decision could be long-term.

The waiver is also unnecessary. The vaccines are already available to the rest of the world, thanks to the licensing agreements that U.S. and European drug companies have voluntarily entered with other manufacturers. Just last week, for example, Merck, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, announced it would partner with several Indian manufacturers to help them develop an antiviral drug for coronavirus patients.

Moreover, there are global partnerships are in place to make sure the countries that need vaccines get them. The U.S. has committed to sending 10% of its supply to other nations over the next few months, and we have also committed $4 billion to Covax, a World Health Organization initiative that aims to distribute two billion vaccine doses to developing countries by the end of the year. Supply is not the issue.

Expanding access to the vaccines beyond traditional licensing agreements will only create a host of safety concerns. Licensing agreements allow companies such as Merck to make sure their partners have the technology necessary to safely and competently develop complex drugs. The coronavirus vaccines in particular require hard-to-find raw materials and updated production facilities that can scale the materials effectively, according to industry experts. Waving patent protections for these vaccines will allow manufacturers that might not have the required equipment and competence to develop these vaccines anyway. This could result in counterfeits, ineffective batches, and other safety hazards.

The Biden administration needs to think this through more carefully. It is possible to disagree with the way Big Pharma conducts business while also acknowledging that pharmaceutical companies deserve rights to the products they create. Take those rights away, and the next pandemic might drag on for much longer.

Tags: Beltway Confidential, Opinion, Coronavirus, Biden Administration, Intellectual Property, Vaccination

Original Author: Kaylee McGhee White

Original Location: Biden's IP waiver for coronavirus vaccines is short-sighted, unnecessary

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