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Covid-19: a Shared Dilemma

Carolina Vera's picture
Published: 19/07/21 - Country: Colombia

On April 26, in the framework of the celebration of the international industrial property day, in a panel organized by PRAGMA, we discussed the possibility of temporarily suspending or releasing patents related to COVID-19 vaccines.

Two weeks later, US President Joe Biden proposed the suspension of patents relating to Covid-19. His trade advisor Katherine Tai said:

"This is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures to be taken."

This proposal has had different reactions on the global stage:

The first to react was Pope Francis, who supported the proposal to temporarily lift patents and ensure universal access to the vaccine, in order to create a fairer model for all, taking into account that the virus has hit hard stronger to the most vulnerable population.

The next to add her voice was Ursula von der Leyen, Head of the European Commission, saying that the community bloc is ready to discuss any relevant proposal that can help to avert the crisis in an effective and pragmatic way. This includes the lifting of intellectual property on patents, if this is the way to achieve this global goal.

President Macron and other European leaders, despite their initial agreement, withdrew their support for the patent lifting measure, claiming that it is not a priority issue and that there are other measures that must be taken sooner, for example; export more doses and remove blockages in customs procedures related to vaccines. Some leaders went further and dismissed President Biden's proposal as premature and accused the United States of becoming the moral champion in the global fight against Covid-19.

On the other hand, the Director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, highlighted Biden's initiative as historic, noting that such a measure would make the production and distribution of vaccines around the world faster and more efficient and promote solidarity between nations, to optimize the scientific knowledge of experts who have worked on vaccine development.

However, the reaction of the pharmaceutical industry was not so enthusiastic with the initiative, calling Biden's announcement regrettable, noting that this measure in no way leads to faster and more effective production of vaccines, and constitutes a measure wrong for the sake of solving the global crisis.

Thus, with such polarized points of view, a global consensus does not seem close. Unfortunately, the prevalence of solidarity over profit seems a very distant ideal at the current juncture. In this situation we must remember that no one will be safe until we are all safe. Sharing vaccines is of paramount importance to the entire world in order to contain the pandemic and prevent the emergence of a new vaccine-resistant variant. Will humanity act sensibly in time?

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Carolina Vera's picture

Lawyer, University of the Andes. Bogotá, D.C., Colombia. (1996)

Master in American Law, Universidad de los Andes Bogotá, D.C., Colombia. (1998)

Master in Trademarks, Patents, and Copyright University of Alicante. Alicante - Spain. (1999)