“In the coming days, a patent will finally be issued on a five-year-old invention, a feat of molecular engineering that is at the heart of at least five major Covid-19 vaccines. And the United States government will control that patent.
The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.
The question is whether the government will do anything at all.
The rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.
But this Western success has created stark inequity. Residents of wealthy and middle-income countries have received about 90 percent of the nearly 400 million vaccines delivered so far. Under current projections, many of the rest will have to wait years. . . . “
David Lindsay: This is a tough problem, and I quake at trying to master all the issues. My gut tells me that the United States should have included standard language from the Gates Foundation, keeping some rights to all of its patents and any research and product that came of its 8 billion dollar investment in rapid vaccine development. Tne drug companies should be allowed large paybacks, for a limited time and amount, and then be by contract, limited to what the Government sees as fair and responsible for taking care of the international pandemic, since Americans are not safe until we do so. Since the Trump administration did not include any such language in its contracts, it gets messy, but we do have the War Production Act, which gives the government great powers in what is determined to be a national emergency.