SHARE prices for big pharma companies Pfizer and Moderna nosedived on Thursday after the Biden administration endorsed “the waiver” of Covid-19 vaccine patents.
The move would afford developing countries a lifeline to produce and inoculate populations with generic versions of the vaccines.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai went public against objections by the major corporations, to nix the intellectual property of vaccines given the dire circumstances brought on by the widespread deadly disease.
“The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines,” Ms. Tai said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Biden was less conclusive about releasing the vaccines to the world.
“Well, we’re going to decide that as we go along,” he said. “I haven’t made that decision yet.”
He did say that the US was slated to order 100million more doses of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“The answer is: We’re going to — as long as there is a problem anywhere in the world — even if we solve it here — we’re going to move as quickly as we can to get as many doses of Moderna and Pfizer as possibly can be produced, and export those around the world.”
Recently countries like India and South Africa have been ravaged by exorbitant numbers of Covid-19 cases.
India has reported having only vaccinated 2 percent of its population while many of the poor and middle-income suffer, according to the New York Times.
The move to pool the vaccine secrets sent shares of vaccine makers tumbling, according to Reuters.
Moderna Inc stock took a 1.44 percent hit.
Pfizer’s stock was down 1.95 percent.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla criticized the giveaway of the proprietary IP that his company created.
“It is so wrong,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
He was not alone in his quick condemnation.
Pooling the patent will only cause more stress on the already atrophied supply chain, according to Dr. Özlem Türeci, Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer partner in Germany BioNTech.
Türeci warns that such a decision is shortsighted and consequential.
"There are a number of important factors in producing vaccines,” she told CNN.
“For example, our manufacturing process involves more than 50,000 steps, all of which have to be executed accurately in order to ensure the efficacy and safety of vaccine.
“It takes experienced personnel, it takes specialized facilities, it takes access to raw materials."
She doesn’t believe there will be an increase in doses over the next year simply by suspending the patents, but she foresees more problems in the supply chain and batching the vaccine if this happens.
"It will probably act towards increasing chaos in production."
The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations also called the IP lifting strategy a mistake.
“A waiver is the simple but the wrong answer to what is a complex problem,” according to a statement to the Associated Press.
“Waiving patents of COVID-19 vaccines will not increase production nor provide practical solutions needed to battle this global health crisis.”
While outcry was echoing with many who stand to potentially lose if the vaccine’s secrets are outed, there were many in the international community that applauded the effort to send help to the world in dire crisis.
“The Biden Administration announcement, favoring patent suspension, is a very important signal,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio posted on his Facebook account.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was supportive of the decision, according to the AP.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. decision too. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also hailed the decision as “great news.”
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had some reservations about the precedent being set.
“The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future,” according to the wire service.
In a tweet, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus regarded the decision as “ a monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19” and showered Biden and Ambassador Tai for his “powerful example of leadership to address global health challenges.”
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