Breakthroughs on vaccines and new treatments are finally offering the world a path to end the Covid-19 pandemic. They’re a tribute to private U.S. corporate innovation, but now developing countries led by India and South Africa are making a damaging bid to waive patent protections for these life-saving advances.
The attempt will surface Friday when these countries offer a resolution at the World Trade Organization meeting to waive patent protections for Covid vaccines, therapies and other technologies. They say this is needed to ensure poor countries have equal access, but their effort would harm everyone, including the poor.
“There are several reports about intellectual property rights hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products,” India and South Africa wrote last month in a WTO proposal that has drawn support from Pakistan, Argentina and Venezuela. America’s left and many nonprofit activists are backing the resolution.
Their complaint is that wealthy countries have locked up most of the world’s vaccine supply next year and are hoarding virus therapies and diagnostic tests. They want the WTO to grant free and unrestricted access to the intellectual property of private companies. Otherwise, they warn, the global pandemic will continue to rage.
This is a false choice. Private companies in the U.S. and to a lesser extent in Europe, with the financial support of their governments, have produced most virus breakthroughs. The Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed has spent more than $10 billion to advance vaccine clinical trials, manufacturing and distribution.