Worldwide access to Covid-19 vaccine

Tom Buis

A Global Covid-19 Patent Pool could be the solution

Researchers around the world are trying to develop treatments and vaccines against the new Covid-19 virus. This requires huge amounts of public and private funding and cooperation amongst many different organizations. Two potential risks may prevent everyone from accessing the vaccine. Firstly, the lack of sufficient production facilities worldwide. Second, patents on a new vaccine would push up prices, hindering governments from providing them to the public. Costa Rica wants to tackle both issues with a global Covid-19 Patent Pool and has asked the WHO for support.

Nationalism vs solidarity

This week there were rumors that president Trump wanted to lure the German company CureVac to the U.S. CureVac is currently working on a vaccine against Covid-19, and Trump hoped to get his hands on the exclusive rights to the vaccine. The German government prevented the take-over. Whatever is true about these rumors, it’s not time for ‘America First’ or ‘Germany first’, but Global access first.

Global Covid-19 Patent Pool

Costa Rica suggests that a global Covid-19 Patent Pool could be a database of patents and other information like production protocols regarding a new vaccine or treatment. It is inspired on the already existing Medicines Patent Pool. This Covid-19 patent pool would allow all vaccine producers around the world to manufacture a new Covid-19 vaccine, using the patents that are in the patent pool. All the patents would be licensed in a non-exclusive manner. This would mean that we maximize global production capacity. As Wemos we urge other WHO member states to support this letter and to push patent holders into pooling their knowledge in a Covid-19 Patent Pool.

Rewarding innovation

Costa Rica’s letter on pooling of knowledge an intellectual property did not talk about how to reward innovation. As Wemos we think innovation should be rewarded responsibly and in a sustainable manner. A Global Covid-19 Patent Pool model could reward production and innovation through a cost-plus model. On top of the production costs, governments would pay for a transparent and reasonable profit margin. The profit margin is split into two groups; the manufacturers and the patent holders. In order to increase profits, manufacturers would have to increase production. This would be drastically different from the current model of just rising prices.

Governments invest huge amounts of tax payers’ money into research. They could attach conditions to ensure that the public benefits from these investments. For example, by agreeing with research institutions and pharmaceutical companies that in the event that patents are the result of public funding, they should be included in the Global Covid-19 Patent Pool.

A Global Covid-19 Patent Pool as suggested by Costa Rica could be the solution to maximizing access and affordability of a possible new vaccine and deserves all our support. Only with true solidarity and global cooperation we will get through this crisis.

Read more about our work on Access To Medicines.

Photo: Arek Socha (via Pixabay)

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