Waiving IP Protections for COVID Vaccines Won't Save the World

Posted: May 07, 2021 4:30 PM
Waiving IP Protections for COVID Vaccines Won't Save the World

Source: AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool

Joe Biden has an apparent savior complex, but his administration's plan to supposedly save the rest of the world from the Wuhan coronavirus won't work. Despite unprecedented action to advocate for the removal of intellectual property protections for technologies and treatments developed in response to COVID-19, this plan will do nothing to help those in need. Instead, it will do more to allow America's rivals to match and potentially surpass our nation's abilities.

Those in support or lifting the legal protections on patents and other intellectual property claim that it's a matter of putting people's lives over the profits earned by the companies who developed COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and the technologies that allowed their rapid development. 

As it turns out, the Biden administration's plan doesn't look like it will actually allow rapid inoculation against COVID in parts of the world they say vaccine doses are needed due to the lack of infrastructure, raw ingredients, and facilities necessary to pull off production of such a complex pharmaceutical product.

Part of the problem lies in the way vaccines are produced. Joining CNN on Thursday, Dr. Ozlem Tureci who is the co-founder and chief medical officer of BioNTech—the entity that, along with Pfizer, produced one of two mRNA vaccines being given in the United States—explained the complex process required to crank out doses:

"Patents are not the limiting factor for the production of, for example, our vaccine. There are a number of important factors in producing vaccines. For example, our manufacturing process involves more than 50,000 steps, all of which have to be executed accurately in order to ensure the efficacy and safety of vaccine. It takes experienced personnel, it takes specialized facilities, it takes access to raw materials."

A waiver such as the Biden administration is pursuing, Tureci also told CNN, "will not increase the number of doses we will have available within the next 12 months. It will probably act towards increasing chaos in production."

The hundreds of ingredients and dozens of processes necessary to create a complete vaccine ready to be administered is nearly impossible in the areas of the world Biden thinks he'd save by releasing American patents and technologies.

The inconvenient truth for the Biden administration is that the intellectual property protections in the United States are what allowed America to lead the way in developing vaccines to protect against COVID-19. And our nation's ability scale production mean we now have excess dosage and could pursue deals necessary to distribute needed vaccines overseas without gutting intellectual property rights. 

If our know-best politicians aren't willing to put in the effort needed to at least attempt to secure agreements and distribution strategies to get surplus COVID vaccines to the corners of the world where it's needed, they shouldn't ask American companies and taxpayers to turn over the fruits of their labor and investment that yielded effective treatments to those who already seek to steal American trade secrets.