U.S. Supports Waiving Vaccine IP During Pandemic, Trade Rep Says | Talking Points Memo

The United States now supports waiving protections on the intellectual property behind COVID-19 vaccines as a way of quickening the end of the global pandemic, the U.S. trade representative said Wednesday. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://talkingpointsmemo.com/?p=1372879

Damn straight. Do it now.


People are dying, and variants are brewing.


Not really sure how this would work. Is the idea that foreign countries would get the ability to make vaccines using the IP? Will there be a compulsory license? Lots to work out here. Also, not sure it addresses the issue.

India, for example, is a vaccine manufacturer. Modi simply gave away a lot of his supply, didn’t manufacture enough to meet demand, and took a quasi protectionist approach on the major foreign made vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, J&J). He still hasn’t imported any of these vaccines even though Pfizer has said they will provide them at cost and even though his country is being overrun by COVID. In terms of manufacturing, is it really the case that a foreign country with no experience in this can stand up a manufacturing facility to increase supply better than the major companies can with gov’t support? This isn’t like making widgets.

I would like to understand the reasoning and what they think they can accomplish with this waiver.


I agree. The world’s wealthiest governments contributed significant financial support to create, purchase, and distribute the vaccines currently available. Those governments should be able to make them available in whatever quantities to whomever they wish, including allowing other companies to produce and distribute them.

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In April 2020 you had Finnish researchers arguing for “open-source” vaccines and nasal-spray delivery systems. Like polio, the goal is suppression of the virus throughout the species, not individual countries. Yet for a year, open-source vaccines were poo-pooed, and not just by the companies holding patents. Bill Gates didn’t like Linux, so it was almost a matter of principle that he came out against open-source vaccines. Better late than never, I guess.


Great. Let’s give mRNA tech worth countless billions for free to the Chinese, saves them the step of stealing it to continue their cheating-to-get-ahead game.

There were other ways to go about ramping up production without giving the whole damned blueprint to our adversaries.


If there’s ever a time for an “all hands on deck” type approach, it’s now as the pandemic is still ravaging many second and third world countries, not to mention some first world countries as well.

Despite the missteps by Modi and some other world leaders, it’s unconscionable for us to stand by and let people suffer if there are actions we can take to mitigate it. I’m not an expert on how quickly other countries can take the IP and run with it. But if we believe in healthcare as a right, then there’s no better time than a during a pandemic to provide assistance.


Do it.

A little side note: Back in the day when Canada was the worlds leader in vaccine development, that’s what we did.



Pfizer and Moderna will fight this tooth and nail. They’re in for the money. And Pfizer may not have gotten funding from the US government, but their partner received help from Berlin.
From the NYT yesterday:

Pfizer frequently points out that it opted not to take federal funds proffered by the Trump administration under Operation Warp Speed, the initiative that promoted the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines.

But BioNTech received substantial support from the German government in developing their joint vaccine. And taxpayer-funded research aided both companies:

The National Institutes of Health patented technology that helped make Pfizer’s and Moderna’s so-called messenger RNA vaccines possible. BioNTech has a licensing agreement with the N.I.H., and Pfizer is piggybacking on that license
Pfizer has kept the profitability of its vaccine sales opaque. The United States, for example, is paying $19.50 for each Pfizer dose. Israel agreed to pay Pfizer about $30 per dose, according to multiple media reports.

In some cases, such as when the European Union recently agreed to buy additional Pfizer doses, the company isn’t disclosing its prices.


The Oxford University is doing a study where they mix and match vaccines. First study data will be on AstraZeneca vaccine for first dose and Pfizer for the second dose and vice versa. results will be announced sometime this month. In June or July results from Moderna and Novavax added to the mix will be released.

Guess I will subscribe. TPM finally fixed their discount link and added a bit more discount for the first year. Not having the link working for more than two weeks without fixing it made me question why I would subscribe when they’re that sloppy and neglectful about things. And we all know what a perfectionist I am, especially regarding proper English and grammar. :rofl:


Makes sense viruses don’t respect patents


I was surprised to read this also.
Is Modi trying to take India back to her ISI economy?
seems like horrible timing to me


Yes, but although Serum Institute is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, they depend on some critical ingredients they import from the US to make their vaccine. The US halted all exports months ago and India cannot start production from scratch in a timely manner with all the other irons they have in the fire right now. Biden finally allowed the critical ingredients to be exported to India about ten days ago.


This is a necessary but insufficient move. Folks will need protocols, reagents, etc.

Too bad Bill Gates hamstrung sharing of the vaccines over a year ago. https://newrepublic.com/article/162000/bill-gates-impeded-global-access-covid-vaccines

It won’t be easy to catch up.

Especially considering the foundation of basic research pharma gets for free, pharmaceutical patents are immoral.

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Biden’s order only happened on March 3rd. It would not have impacted India’s production until May. They didn’t have to start production from scratch. Nothing prevented Modi from importing Pfizer, Moderna and J&J. 3 weeks ago his gov’t gave EUA to any vaccine approved in the US/EU/JP and he still hasn’t gotten any supply in. Modi has been trying to blame the US for his own mistakes.


Modi is a monster.


India would have to get a hell of a discount to afford Pfizer’s vaccine in the numbers they need. J&J would be a cheaper alternative. I’ve read they’re working on finalizing a deal now with Pfizer and J&J.

I’ve read that Emergent from Baltimore has about 60 million extra doses of J&J they want approval to release from the FDA. That’s the company that had some issues with their manufacturing plant.

I’m not certain India can even use the Pfizer vaccine in most of the countryside because of the super cold freezers needed for shipping and handling.


Pfizer has been offering the vaccine to them at cost. Moderna & J&J have wanted in too. Modi won’t take yes for an answer because he is favoring the Covishield (the Indian version of A/Z) and Covaxin (Indian manufactured). I guarantee you that the loss of economic productivity from the devastating surge is far higher than the cost of importing vaccines at cost,


Waiving th IP will not solve the problem. As already pointed out, Pfizer has agreed to make their vaccine available to poor countries at cost, and less than they could make it themselves. Other man8facturers will undoubtedly follow suit. Plus it takes more than just the IP to make a vaccine. They have to have the equipment, manufacturing lines, skilled personnel, and most importantly, the raw ingredients to make a vaccine. If India, for instance, had the rights to make the Pfizer vaccine they would stil be in trouble; they cannot manufacture the vaccines they already have rights to. Cutting the known manufactures out will not change that.