News Release

Vaccines: Paid for by Public, Made for Profit

DEAN BAKER, dean.baker1@verizon.net@DeanBaker13
Baker is a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and just co-wrote the New York Times op-ed “Want Vaccines Fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights.”

The piece discusses a major proposal “forward by India and South Africa in October, [which] calls on the W.T.O. to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, trade secrets or pharmaceutical monopolies under the organization’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known as TRIPs.

“It cites the ‘exceptional circumstances’ created by the pandemic and argues that intellectual property protections are currently ‘hindering or potentially hindering timely provisioning of affordable medical products’; the waiver would allow W.T.O. member countries to change their laws so that companies there could produce generic versions of any coronavirus vaccines and Covid-19 treatments.

“The idea was immediately opposed by the United States, the European Union, Britain, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Australia and Brazil. It was opposed again at another meeting in November, and again last week. …

“The vaccines developed by these companies were developed thanks wholly or partly to taxpayer money. Those vaccines essentially belong to the people — and yet the people are about to pay for them again, and with little prospect of getting as many as they need fast enough.”