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US pushed to join call for patent-free Covid vaccines



FILE PHOTO: Patent-free vaccines could save more than a decade on global vaccinations.

The United States is being pushed to join a scheme to persuade all manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide to give up their intellectual property rights. This would make all Covid-19 medications, treatments and vaccines patent-free, allowing manufacturers around the world to produce them locally. India and South Africa proposed this plan at the World Trade Organization.

As Covid-19 still spreads around the world, and countries like India and Brazil deep in crisis-level outbreaks, freeing up the production of vaccines by making the technology patent-free could lead to much-accelerated global vaccination.

A group of health experts are stressing that political opposition in Washington DC is standing in the way of the global advancement of the patent-free vaccines scheme. Hundreds of self-described public health faculty, administrators, students and practitioners presented a statement to the Biden administration advocating for the plan to give a temporary waiver of trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights rules.

The group pointed out that we are facing continued Covid-19 deaths and suffering, plus we run the risk of recurring new variants emerging and Covid-19 developing resistance to treatment drugs. Things can’t get better until vaccines, treatment and testing are available worldwide to everyone in need. Making the intellectual property patent-free would expedite the production and distribution of vaccines dramatically.

Without sharing the technology needed to reproduce Covid-19 vaccines, the production of vaccines and inoculations will be hampered and slowed unnecessarily and to the detriment of global health. The letter estimated some poor and developing countries may not have full access to widespread vaccination for more than a decade, by as late as 2034.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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  1. Dynamo Dave

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    The patent-free call sounds wonderful in world Covid recovery terms. There’s just one thing niggling me about it though. Suppose Astrazeneca went patent free and a reputable chemical manufacturer – in Thailand, let’s say – used the formula, only for its vaccines to cause serious and widespread side-effects which, upon testing, were found to be the company’s fault. Bad news all round; for the recipient, for this Thai producer and for A-Z.
    Can anyone advise me as to how this risk could be prevented, other than by having an A-Z personnel in continual observation at the Thai factory in order to ensure 100% compliance and quality control?

  2. wayno

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 1:36 am

    There are very few genuinly poor countries. Most countries have massive resourses but those resources are squandered and controlled by corrupt leaders.
    Why should honest countries condone the theft of wealth by corrupt governments by bailing them out with hand outs ?
    Africa and Aisia come to mind !

  3. Nigel

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 2:20 am

    I have to say I tend to agree with you @wayno. Most countries that are poor are generally poor due to corrupt leaders and corrupt citizens. Add to that many citizens are too lazy to change their leaders and it’s sort of hard to have sympathy. Then when things go wrong with the system they have allowed to carry on unchecked for 100 years, they suddenly want more orderly countries to come to their aid. Perhaps AZ and Pfizer could agree to help out on condition citizens of the U.K, Sweden and the US get treated more favourably when trying to live quietly in the countries they help

  4. Jason

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 7:25 am

    As far as I know (and I might be mistaken), Astra Zeneca is the only vaccine producer that has given license for production of it’s vaccine to other countries to produce themselves. I know Astra Zeneca does, because in Australia, we have the license for and are producing Astra Zeneca vaccine at our Commonwealth Serum Laboratory (CSL) in Melbourne. We have license to produce 50 million doses. Perhaps if other companies did the same, we might get out of this mess a whole lot faster. I understand companies wanting to safeguard their intellectual property, but by granting license they do that and at the same time allow countries to produce locally. It’s time to bring pressure to bear on these companies to do so. Bangladesh has enormous capacity to produce vaccines, but can’t because companies won’t grant them license.

  5. Social Observer

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 7:31 am

    Why can’t these various needy countries simply pay license fees for the right to manufacture the vaccines locally ? Or why don’t they invite the vaccine companies to set up manufacturing plants locally ? Companies that invest tens or hundreds of millions of dollars developing vaccines should not be forced to give away their intellectual property for free.

  6. Malc Thai

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 7:47 am

    So the pharmaceutical companies spend billions over the years to learn and develop vaccines and drugs .now the small group of countries want them to give up their patents so anybody can copy.. well how about now being allowed to copy by signing an agreement with the company to produce vaccine under licence which has restrictions to make sure the product is up to standards.. what company would bother developing vaccines in the future if they have to give up a patent .. there is nothing stopping these poor countries from signing an agreement to produce In their own country!

  7. Mister Stretch

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 8:13 am

    @DD If your scenario actually occurred, AZ would be blameless. They would have relinquished the patent (even temporarily) and the local manufacturer would responsible for any product they produced on their own. Granted, if they really screwed up and mixed the formula wrong, it could be worse than side effects, it could result in death.

    Countries like India, home of the world’s largest vaccine maker, and Brasil have exacerbated the problem by refusing to limit crowds or refusing to admit the science behind how the virus spreads. Neither country is so poor they can’t pay for vaccines.

    I have no problem with a reduction in prices, but to tell any company in the world – you must give away the product of your research and effort – and no longer receive payment for it…that’s just wrong.

    Biden is between a rock and a hard spot right now, balancing the fence between intellectual property protection and helping save the world.

    • David Ambrosia

      Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 8:42 am

      That’s the Marxist-socialist fetiche.. forget about private sector and individual initiatives, let the state apparatus make it “free” for everyone one..

  8. Dono

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 8:47 am

    @Wayno, true, many governments are led by corrupt politicians. So let’s not hand over the tech to produce vaccines necessary to save their people…that’ll teach them!

  9. Ben

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 10:42 am

    2034??? If that isn’t an exaggeration then I don’t know what is.

    I’m in complete agreement with Malc Thai. This is a money grab. India and South Africa have resources and can afford to inoculate their populations quickly if they open their check book. There are a lot of vaccines in production and many more coming on-line shortly so the world will quickly have the capability to produce billions, if not tens of billions, of doses annually.

    Thailand has a population of 70 million people. For $2.5 billion you could buy enough Pfizer vaccine to fully inoculate everyone. Skip buying a submarine this year and next or ask the King if he’ll contribute some of the reported $70 billion he has access too.

    If there truly is a country that can’t afford it then deal with that separately.

  10. Dynamo Dave

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 11:03 am

    @Mister Stretch – Thanks, MS . . . a most helpful answer and with all aspects covered. Cheers!

  11. Steve

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    @Nigel – 100% Agree, the west is a cash cow full stop. Everything made hard for forigners. 90 day reporting, second class citizens,no rights at all but want the west to bail them out in times of trouble. Then back to screw**g the dirty farrang again!

  12. Simon Small

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    “@DD If your scenario actually occurred, AZ would be blameless …”

    Agreed, @Mr S, but at the moment nobody’s “responsible” if Covid vaccines make your eyes fall out or anything else. All (AZ, Pfizer, Sinovac, etc) are in Ph 3 trials (even if the “trials” are of hundreds of millions of people) and the drugs are all still “experimental” and will be for several years.

    I’m not an anti-vaxxer or suggesting that’s bad, but that’s just how it is.

  13. Simon Small

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    “Perhaps AZ and Pfizer could agree to help out on condition citizens of the U.K, Sweden and the US get treated more favourably when trying to live quietly in the countries they help”

    FWIW, @Nigel, these would be those countries:

    Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, N.Korea, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Yemen.

    I doubt whether there are that many “citizens of the U.K, Sweden and the US” who are “trying to live quietly” in most of those.

    • Nigel

      Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 4:30 pm

      It’s not about quantity of people wanting to live in any of those countries, it’s about the principle of the west continually having to support and bail out these countries and getting absolutely nothing; not even basic respect, for doing so. It happens at all levels and as you well know, happens every day in Thailand. Imagine what middle income countries would be like if they didn’t have computers, aircraft, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, the internet, telecommunications etc. All of these are western developments for which all countries now enjoy. Yes of course these technologies are bought by those countries, but they have to be invented, developed and produced in order to buy them. There is simply no basic recognition (never mind respect) for what these nations provide to the world. They look down on developed nations until they need their help and then they play the “pity us” card. Stick a few of their kids in front of of news cameras and pull at the heart strings of those at home. Western governments need to be much firmer with these countries in more calmer times. Sort out your systems of government. Stop the corruption and sick treatment of your own people, or don’t come knocking on our door when you have problems. Tough, very tough on the populations, but it’s tough medicine. These leaders get away with their vile behaviour because “do good” people like Biden and others allow bad leaders to just do enough to placate their populations. This request to have free vaccines is the latest example. Spun to make the west feel they need to do it as “no one is safe until we are all safe”. I’m more than happy to help countries who are respectful and friendly to my country. I’m less inclined to help when I go to these countries and treated like a second class human, let alone second class citizen.

  14. Toby Andrews

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    I have just googled: why do Thai not thank foreigners that do favours for them.
    It seems this has been noticed by many foreigners.
    I think the reason is that they just are not grateful. Look at monks receiving food. They never thank the giver – not even a blessing most of the time.
    Now Thailand is in trouble and need the West’s help. Why should anyone help them?
    They have shown that the contempt and scamming of foreigners will continue.
    Just last week they announced a Covid test for a ferang is B500. For a Thai free, entering Phuket.
    Stop this unjustified pity of the Thais. They do not deserve it.
    They did well from the foreigner, but any gratitude they had, has turned to entitlement.

  15. Dynamo Dave

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    @Simon Small – Thanks, SS. A-Z ‘blameless’ legally and technically, maybe. I was more concerned about the besmirching of the name of the original vaccine maker . . . guilty by association if nothing more, I was thinking.
    I’m sure, if I was the A-Z CEO, I’d be more than a little worried unless I had 110% confidence in the adoptive manufacturer.

  16. Travel elsewhere if your smart

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Thailand has dug its own hole. There are a couple decent human beings in this country however as someone who is married to a Thai and spent ten years off and on there as a whole they are the most corrupt, low dogs I’ve ever come across on this planet thus far. I would not believe a word one said, lying to save face is culturally acceptable. Let them reap what they sow. No vaccines, no tourist, no money boo hoo. Guess you should’ve treated the tourist better.

  17. Simon Small

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    “Yes of course these technologies are bought by those countries,…”

    Something you seem to have completely overlooked in the rest of your blinkered, stunningly bigoted rant, @Nigel.

    When has “the west” ever “supported and bailed out” any countries unless it stood to profit from it or to extend it’s influence?

    In Iraq? Afghanistan? The assorted colonies? With the “Caribbean experience”, aka slavery?

    … and where do you think most components for “computers, internet, telecommunications” are “produced”? In “the west” or countries “like Thailand”?

    … and most “pharmaceuticals” and vaccines? In “the west” or countries like India?

    Why is it always those who’ve contributed the least themselves, who’ve done nothing to earn or deserve respect, who expect “recognition (never mind respect)” because of what OTHERS have done, that they’ve played absolutely no part in?

    What absolute, pathetic, self-serving crap.

    People generally get treated as they deserve, on their own merits. What have YOU ever done to merit being treated as anything more than a “second class citizen”?

    YOU, as in YOU, not others?

  18. Jim

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    Normally I support the concept of Intellectual Property Rights. But in the case of vaccines, much of the R&D was paid for by US taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health and by direct grants from the government. Bill Gates gave $600 million to the WHO so he could position himself as vaccine Czar. He has stated that it would be a mistake for companies to surrender their IP rights to manufacturers in other countries because they lack the quality controls to produce vaccines. That’s a lie. He is motivated by $$$

  19. Simon Small

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    “Look at monks receiving food. They never thank the giver – not even a blessing most of the time.”

    My apologies for my past criticism, @toby andrews.

    I’d thought before that you were just Thai-bashing because they threw you out, but now I see that you just don’t understand even the simplest, most basic things about Thailand and Thais despite your years living here and decades visiting.

    Monks don’t “thank the giver” because the monks are the ones doing the giving. You just failed to notice.

    They’re not going round asking to be “given” food for which they’ll “thank the giver”. The monks are the ones giving those who want to make merit the chance to do so.

    You can make merit from giving to charity or the needy, and they’ll thank you because they’re asking you to help – and you’re making merit yourself as well as helping them.

    But monks AREN’T asking you to help. They’re helping you so that you can make merit. Why would they thank you when they’re helping you?

    (… and that only applies to monks, BTW, @toby andrews.)

  20. Nigel

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 10:29 pm

    You are so typical of the blind westerner. Filled with colonial guilt and simply can’t see what is going on in the world. I would never support colonial days and neither did I try. I would never support invasion of another country and didn’t try to. People like you always throw out these issues as a way to justify the complete lack of regard most countries have of the west. That is of course until they need our help. Of course components for computers are made in Asia. It was the west that gave them the knowledge and technology to produce them, or in the case of China they simply stole the idea and walked over intellectual property and now similar countries want to do the same with vaccines. Most countries show utter disdain for the west until they need something, and help with Covid has once again exposed that. As soon as the pandemic is over they will go back to treating westerners like second class citizens. You keep your rose tinted glasses on and just hope that when push comes to shove your “loyalty” to your new country will pay dividends. Ask yourself this one question. When do you ever see Thai spouses protesting to Thai immigration over the way their spouses are treated? When do you ever read of a movement to get better rights for westerners in Thailand? Will never happen and yet frequently happens in the west. I’d say open your eyes but I think you are blind. Best you keep your head in the hole in the sand you have dug for yourself.

    As for what I have done to merit respect but never received it. Try working for UNICEF for the past 27 years visiting many of the countries you listed. In that 27 years I have seen much gratitude by individuals me and my team helped. But I saw very little to none from the wider society and government. Your acceptance of this is the very reason these corrupt governments get away with it.

  21. James

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    End the patents and the corrupt politicians and wealthy elite in poor countries will use the vaccine technology to further enrich themselves. It won’t benefit the average citizens.

  22. Toby Andrews

    Monday, May 3, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    @Simon Small – Yes I am well aware of the merit obtained by persons giving food to monks.
    I just used their lack of gratitude as an illustration. But my statement still stands.
    Thais are never grateful to foreigners. Maybe they were once, but now they expect the West’s help as a right.
    I used to think that the Russians attitude to Thais was wrong. Now I think the Russians saw something I missed.
    You Small Simon as a big fish in a small pond in Isaan, have been identified by Thais as an easy touch.
    You wrote it here. You gave away a house, motor bikes. You most likely support ten Thais, and their dogs, so you are not scammed, and are treated with respect. Of course they do; they want more money from you.
    However, visit Bangkok, Khao san Road, or Nana Plaza, and watch the Thais rip you off every chance they get.
    Go to the Grand Palace, and pay B500, while the Thais pay nothing, and while you are in there look at the ornate street lights the British gave to the Thais.
    There is a bridge up at Aranyaprathet border crossing a river. The British built it for Thailand.
    See anything the Thais built for the British in the UK? Thais will only take with no gratitude, and continue ripping off foreigners. They have had too much given them to change.
    You are in denial, about the wonderful Thais.

    • Nigel

      Monday, May 3, 2021 at 1:35 pm

      Couldn’t have put it better myself. Only thing I would say is that your comments apply to many other countries towards westerners. We think that generosity leads to gratitude and respect. Many cultures see it as weakness which results in no gratitude and lack of respect. You only have to be in Thailand for more than a couple of days to see it. That is unless you are blinded. The heat can do that to some people.

  23. Simon Small

    Monday, May 3, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    @Nigel, thanks for one of the funniest rants by the “entitled” that I’ve seen for years!

    “.. working for UNICEF for the past 27 years”

    No surprises there! The most incompetent, over-paid, inept bunch of utter wasters I’ve come across, expecting those they’re supposed to be helping to “respect” them, be “friendly” and give them a free blow-job because the organisation that employs them may give away a few crumbs.

    “I would never support colonial days [or] invasion of another country and didn’t try to.”

    No, but you’re quite happy to ignore it as if it never happened!

    “People like you always throw out these issues as a way to justify the complete lack of regard most countries have of the west”

    Well, just maybe it’s because “people like me” realise that it IS the reason for “the complete lack of regard most countries have of the west” – and that if “people like you” just ignore it rather than acknowledge it “most countries” will continue to have a “complete lack of regard for the west”.

    “Of course … blah, blah …”

    Of course they did! Just as “the west” and everybody else has always done, stealing “ideas” and “intellectual property”!

    Do you think the West ever paid China for inventing explosives? The compass, paper or printing? Deep drilling technology, tea or beer?

    Of course they didn’t, they
    “simply stole the idea and walked over intellectual property”. But that’s all right, of course, because we’re white and entitled.

    “Ask yourself this one question.”

    Actually that’s two questions!

    “When do you ever see Thai spouses protesting to Thai immigration over the way their spouses are treated?”

    Seldom – probably because most farangs are actually quite happy with how they’re “treated” here on balance or they wouldn’t stay here, and the “Thai spouses” of the few that aren’t are actually quite happy for the chance to see their unpleasant farang spouses being dumped on.

    “When do you ever read of a movement to get better rights for westerners in Thailand?” Only from Richard Barrow and his fellow whingers. Thais instead concentrate on “better rights” for those who actually need them, such as illegal and foreign workers, rather than those who are already pandered to.

    “I’d say open your eyes but I think you are blind”

    “Blind” because I can see both sides of the same coin??? ROFL!

    “Your acceptance of this is the very reason these corrupt governments get away with it.”

    No, the reason “these corrupt governments get away with it” is because governments like yours (and mine) support them as it’s in their interests to do so, and they always have.

  24. Nigel

    Monday, May 3, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    So sad to read your comments. Clearly someone who has managed to convince themself they are actually living in a morally advanced nation who takes care of its people and contributes significantly to the wider world. I want stoop to your pathetic and juvenile breakdown of your reply, it’s too soft a target. The only thing I will take exception to is your vile representation of an organisation who spend over $6billion of supporting children all over the world, including Thailand. With over 12,000 staff worldwide, of course there are some bad people who find there way in to an organisation that size. You are truly a vile disgusting sad individual making such allegations, clearly why you can’t see the wrongs taking place in the world
    Just one correction (I could correct all) of your comments. Gunpowder was stolen by the west. It’s spread during the Mongol empire days. But of course you gather your views based, not on real knowledge, just from the university of Google. Keep up the good work entertaining us. No wonder Thaiger let’s your comments through. They are hilarious ???

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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