Patent Waiver on Covid-19 Vaccines Splits Opinions in Biotech Industry

Attempts to increase global Covid-19 vaccine coverage with a temporary patent waiver have been met with hostility from many big pharma and biotech companies, but some smaller players welcome the idea.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still rampaging through many countries and new viral variants popping up with alarming regularity, scuffles over who holds intellectual property (IP) for the vaccines might seem unimportant.

Yet proposals to temporarily waive patents for coronavirus vaccines have sparked furious debate, with the potential to influence not only vaccine supplies and their fair global distribution but also biotech innovation.

Last year, South Africa and India proposed a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines as a means to improve vaccine access. For example, it could make it easier for poorer countries to produce their own vaccines. The proposal gained big support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US this year. The European Commission has been resistant to waiving Covid-19 vaccine patents, but was recently pressured by a European Parliament vote backing the idea.

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