WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 6, 2021) Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), has issued the following statement in response to the Biden Administration’s announcement in support of waiving intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines:
“The global need for COVID-19 vaccinations is evident in the numbers we’re seeing every day. Too many countries are struggling to vaccinate their populations at a critical time in our collective fight against this virus. For leaders in the U.S. and across the world, the main policy question now is how best to increase manufacturing and distribution as quickly as possible.
“I commend the Biden Administration for its efforts to get vaccines to states and communities, resulting in more than 250 million vaccine doses administered. We’ve made significant progress in a short period of time. For this reason, the U.S. must assume a leadership role helping other countries access the vaccines to turn the tide on this virus. In the short term, this includes building on voluntary licensing agreements, scaling up domestic manufacturing and exportation, and making a point to donate unused vaccines. This approach that we are currently pursuing could be accelerated globally to underserved countries like India and in so doing will result in a dramatic increase in shots in arms. We are on the right track here.
“In contrast, the announcement by the U.S. Trade Representative this week to support waiving IP protections for COVID-19 vaccines will not achieve these goals. While intended to allow global manufacturers to manufacture and distribute the vaccines, it is the slowest route for global distribution for several reasons— including the ability to establish manufacturing facilities capable of producing a safe and effective vaccine, doing so in global competition for raw materials and overcoming bottlenecks in countries with already fragile distribution systems. Equally important, it has the unfortunate longer-term impact of eliminating future incentives for investments in developing new innovative drugs to treat a wide range of conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s, many of which were exacerbated by the interruption of care during the pandemic.
“Finally, waiving IP protections makes it harder to prepare for future pandemics while creating avenues for China and Russia to access highly sensitive technology. The U.S. government played a key role in the early stages of developing one of the technologies used in two of the existing COVID-19 vaccines. Innovators involved in vaccine development were subject to numerous hacking attempts traced to rogue nations to steal the IP the Administration has now decided to give away. We must view any and all decisions involving IP through a national security lens, especially when it comes to preparedness efforts.
“We have all seen the devastating effects of what it means to live without any vaccine or treatment for a highly infectious disease. Removing IP protections is not the way lead the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic or to prepare for future global health crises. Just the opposite, we need these protections now – and the innovation dependent on them – more than ever.”
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The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is an international coalition of patient, provider, community, business and labor groups, and health policy experts, committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs: chronic disease.