But not everybody is a fan of the move to waive the vaccine patents.
For some, there is an obvious economic impact: if pharmaceutical companies can’t control the production of their product, they aren’t able to make as much profit.
In the hours after the Biden administration’s announcement, all four of the major US companies responsible for producing COVID-19 vaccines – BioNTech SE, Novavax, Inc., Moderna, Inc. and Pfizer Inc. – saw their stocks plummet.
But these drugmakers had other reasons for opposing the move.
They argued that the main cause of vaccine shortages wasn’t an unwillingness to share knowledge, but the lack of supplies and technological ability.
These companies have expressed concerns that an increase in the creation of vaccines by ill-equipped producers will result in a potentially inferior product.
Others have noted it could be another year or more before the waiver would have any effect on vaccine productions, meaning it would do next to nothing for struggling nations in the short-term.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) also would have to approve the waiver.
So, wait, the Biden administration didn’t waive patent rights?
No, the Biden administration doesn’t have the power to just toss out patents.
The waivers must be negotiated by the WTO, which is likely to take months.
It also isn’t as straightforward as simply waiving all patents for all vaccines. Countries like India and the US will need to bring proposals for how this would work and for which vaccines.
All 164 countries in the WTO would then have to agree to the waiver.
Considering that Germany just said it opposes the waiver, that might mean this is already dead in the water.
On the other hand, some believe that the Biden administration’s support for the waivers was about pressuring pharmaceutical companies into seeking out partnerships for vaccine production.
This would likely lead to an increase in vaccine production, which would lead to more and more countries getting vaccinated, even if the waivers never happen.
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