Calls for WTO to Suspend IP Rights for Vaccine Innovation Would Jeopardize Incredible Progress
The biggest vaccination effort in the history of medicine is underway to eradicate the global pandemic, with several strong prospects appearing poised for regulatory approval. As of December 2020, data from the World Health Organization showed over 50 vaccine candidates in clinical research, and 163 more in the preclinical stage. The wait could soon be over. Two separate vaccines – one from Pfizer and BioNTech and one from Moderna – are pending emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The former is already being administered for the first time outside of clinical trials following its approval by the UK government. That’s why recent calls to strip away intellectual property protections are so dangerous. Specifically, some nations have asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property protections related to COVID-19 – including not only vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and medical technologies, but all forms of IP – until the majority of the world’s population has developed immunity. They argue that the current global intellectual property system is a barrier to accessing said COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and medical technologies.