The COVID-19 pandemic hit humanity hard since March of 2020 till present. Countries took up various measures to combat the spread and to take care of those who got affected due to the virus. A ray of hope that arose after nearly a year of research was the vaccine to prevent corona from affecting the humans to some extent. This vaccine however was not a singular globalized unit. A lot of countries produced their own homegrown vaccines such as the Sputnik-V from Russia, Covishield and Covaxin from India and Comirnaty from the European Union. There are a lot many more variants of the vaccines in the US, UK and Saudi regions.
Even though there are a wide variety of vaccines to choose from, the production of such vaccines is a herculean task. With a worldwide population of over 7 billion people, current production rates cannot suffice the demand. It is not that there is no facility to increase production but it is the fact that some vaccines have been registered as patents in different countries.
The United States of America and the EU are the pioneers in protection of IPR. According to the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time. Patents are temporary monopoly rights for the exploitation of various intellectual resources. This hinders the sharing of the composition of the vaccine. One solution to this problem is to relieve all IPR related rules for the time being to allow small, medium and large scale manufactures all together to manufacture the vaccine and distribute them. This solves the problem of import-export from other countries as homegrown labs will be able to synthesize the vaccine.
The other problem with such opening up of restrictions however, comes to the economy of the nations. With the IPR gone, the people who actually founded the vaccine no longer get their royalties. Neither does the country benefit from the massive amount of exports it can carry out.
Inidan states and health experts warn that shortages of COVID-19 vaccines might disrupt plans to immunize all adults and prolong India’s severe second wave. A prolonged crisis results in enabling dangerous mutations of the virus resulting in much stronger variants.
In the case of Covishield, Adar Poonawalla said that the Serum Institute of India (SII) was earning a profit of 150 rupees per dose. He openly also stated that the SII wanted super-profits for the development of the vaccine. On widespread criticism, the price was slashes from a maximum of 600 rupees per dose to 300 rupees.
In India, Pfizer legally blocked alternative pneumococcal vaccines. There have been many instances where technical information has been denied to third parties based on patent rights. Countries in the Global South have been told that the only way to industrialise is to open up to Big Pharma coming in and setting themselves up for cheap. A few Big Pharma companies are allowed to develop and produce vaccines from the start to the finish.
The TRIPS Council of the World Trade Organization will discuss a proposal submitted by 62 co-sponsors, including India, South Africa, and Indonesia, seeking patent waivers to manufacture COVID-19-related products. In October last year, India and South Africa had submitted the first proposal for a waiver applicable to all World Trade Organization (WTO) members on the implementation of provisions of the TRIPS Agreement in relation to the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19.
The EU and the US have now taken a stance of being in favour of such waiver. The US at first was against the waiver due to the huge demand needed for themselves as well the loss in profits that might occur. Canada on the other hand has pre-ordered a massive amount of vaccines from major producers which causes a lack in other countries that actually need it.
The weakening of existing private monopolies enabled by international IP rules would result significantly increasing the access and affordability of live-saving drugs while also allowing developing nations to build their infrastructure at a rapid pace. With the world in dire need of vaccines and some vaccines having to be administered in double doses, it is the need of the hour to remove such regulations temporarily to ensure that human rights are protected as opposed to the business rights that Big Pharma companies hold.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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