As mass vaccination in the United States beats back the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical manufacturers should be having their day in the sun. Instead, they’re again in the crosshairs of Washington, the Biden administration having just announced it will support stripping intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
On its own, this move will do nothing to speed global vaccine availability. Pfizer’s vaccine sources 280 components from 86 suppliers, and manufacturing, storing and distributing today’s doses also requires technical expertise and infrastructure that isn’t in place in the countries in most immediate need.
What it will do, however, is signal to manufacturers that their much-needed investments in developing and producing life-saving medications may not be as necessary from a business perspective. Why spend your own money on the research and development of vaccines to put an end to Covid-19, malaria or other life-threatening illnesses when you can just wait for someone else to do it and essentially copy their work?