The COVID-19 pandemic led to a race between pharmaceutical giants. Scientists and researchers worked long and hard to develop a vaccine that would be safe and effective. Those who develop these medical advancements often seek to protect their innovations with the use of patents and often make money off of manufacturers who buy patent rights.
Although a common practice, the public and lawmakers have started to scrutinize the use of patent protections to use medical advances for financial gain. This scrutiny is currently getting the attention of politicians and scientist throughout the world as they enter the debate on the pros and cons of patent protections for the COVID-19 vaccines.
Why are patent protections a bad thing in this situation?
Congressional members have voiced concern that intellectual property (IP) protections like patents during the pandemic could impact the affordability of these vaccines. The cost of getting the information from the patent holder could be too large an obstacle for other countries to manage.
Lawmakers also note that due to federal funding to help advance the development of these vaccines, the limitations that come with such protections may be unethical. It is important to note that federal involvement is not a novel concept. In the past, this has led to the federal government having at least some ownership in the resulting product.
What is the benefit of patent protections for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Patent rights provide incentive for investors to put money into pharmaceutical innovations. This is extremely valuable to promote future innovations. Those in favor of the protections have stated that waiving these protections would not increase vaccine availability because it essentially equates to giving out a recipe book without providing the ingredients or workforce needed to make the vaccine.
When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, some used innovative mRNA sequencing that could lead to future advances in other areas of medicine. As such, those who are against the waiver are concerned that a loss of IP protections could result in dwindling investments for further research and advances.