The Covid-19 pandemic has led to millions of deaths in the past two years. The hope that vaccines developed in record time — mostly through research funded by the U.S. federal government — would allow us to close this dark chapter continues to wane in the face of rich countries’ vaccine hoarding and pharmaceutical companies’ appetite for profit. This need not and must not be the case. The Biden administration has a historic opportunity to deal a serious blow to the pharmaceutical industry’s profiteering goals and act in the world’s interest. It would be unconscionable for them to do otherwise.
To truly bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic which has ravaged the globe, the Biden administration must embrace a strategy of vaccine equity. To do this, the Biden Administration needs to ensure the suspension of intellectual property restrictions on the coronavirus vaccines, via a serious push at the World Trade Organization. In addition to that, the administration must use its broad powers to fully challenge Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccine duopoly. That means compelling the beneficiaries of public largesse to share vaccine recipes and manufacturing know-how. It is perfectly legal for the federal government to do this without the firms’ buy-in. After all, significant portions of the research that led to development of these vaccines were funded by federal government grants and programs. The public funded research from which these firms have profited can now save many more lives if the lifesaving technology is better utilized. It is past time for Biden to act.
Below is the Revolving Door Project’s case for vaccine equity specifically and intellectual property reform more broadly. How the Biden Administration deals with these issues will go a long way to determining how they are remembered across the globe: Heroic reformers, or retrograde hacks content to stand with profiteers rather than the vulnerable.
This post will be updated over time.
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Image: “First vaccine against dengue vials production” by Sanofi Pasteur is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0