What To Know About The Growing Debate Over COVID-19 Vaccine Patents And Equity

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The ability of wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom to place huge orders for vaccines before companies had even proved their efficacy has attracted critics since the earliest months of the pandemic ? and the results they warned about are playing out now.
Wealthy countries are at the front of the vaccine supply line and have essentially cleared the shelves: High-income and upper-middle-income countries have secured more than 6 billion vaccine doses, according to data provided to the journal Nature by the Duke University Global Health Innovation Center. Two major manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, are also American companies, giving the U.S. a leg up.

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As of March 30, 86% of the shots that have gone into arms worldwide have been administered to people in high-income and upper-middle-income countries, according to UNICEF data analyzed by The New York Times. Just 0.1% of doses were given out in low-income countries as of that date. In India, a country where the coronavirus is currently ravaging the population, only 10% have received a single dose.
To get the pandemic under control ? a universal goal, to be sure ? a growing number of voices in public health and global politics are demanding greater consideration of vaccine equity.
One proposal making the rounds would temporarily remove intellectual property barriers to producing vaccines and coronavirus-related treatments. Not surprisingly, it has garnered stiff opposition from pharmaceutical companies and the trade organizations (and politicians) that they fund. Supporters say it is essential to the timely and cost-effective production of drugs needed in every corner of the world.

Posted 03 May 2021

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