By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2021-05-08 05:29:04
The positive response of the world community (except the European Union, more particularly Germany), especially the US, for temporary patent waiver on Covid vaccines, is laudable. There is no doubt that billions of dollars are spent in research for developing new medicines or drugs and this is especially true of Covid-related vaccines and drugs. But given the urgency and importance of these vaccines, the research for most of them was funded by governments and public money. Hence, given the nature of the pandemic there must be temporary patent waiver on these vaccines to make them available to everyone and at a cheaper cost.
Research-based and patented drugs are costly because the companies that make them need to recover more than the billions they spent in developing them to fund further research. If they are not normally allowed to price their products accordingly to recover costs and make 'super' profits for funding further research, there will be no incentive to undertake research and develop new medicines and vaccines. But when such research is funded by public money, the patent must ideally rest with the public, as is the case of Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech in association with ICMR and funded by the government. In such cases, and when the entire humanity is threatened, patents must be foregone to allow all those who have the manufacturing facility to make the vaccines.
India must allow all manufacturers, both public sector units and private producers, who are capable of producing vaccines to start production of Covaxin under the compulsory licensing norms, for both SI and Bharat Biotech have made it clear that it will take time for them to ramp up their manufacturing facilities. Hence, all idle capacity in the country must now be utilized. Later, when temporary patent waiver happens, these manufacturers can make all vaccines. That would ensure easy and cheaper availability of all vaccines and India will also be able to fulfill it humanitarian obligations to other nations. For, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed out, "No one is safe till all are safe". All nations have to ensure that every eligible person in the world is fully vaccinated as early as possible.