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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Monday, 14 June 2021 8.42 AM IST

What to save, man or his intellectual property?

covid-vaccine

The world is once again at the mercy of merciless nature and some of its tiniest solders. The second wave of COVID has arrived even as most countries, including India, continue to develop and distribute COVID vaccines. Most countries have not yet completed the two-phase distribution of the vaccine. This poses a great challenge saving lives. A bottleneck is now expected in vaccine production. Even when 50% of the demand was not in supply the countries that developed the vaccine set the price for it. The formula of the vaccine belongs to the intellectual property of the nation which developed it. Therefore, since patent laws apply to this, international laws and economic factors do come in the way of formula transfer. Even companies that currently manufacture COVID vaccines cannot meet even 10% of the global vaccine demand. Patent laws are being debated as the world moves to a stringent lockdown in the second wave of the corona and human life is about come to a standstill. Many human lives could be spared if patent laws were relaxed and vaccines produced in other countries' production facilities. The first requirement is that vaccine-producing nations should show a humane approach. It is true that the countries which developed the vaccine are unwilling to take a humane attitude and hand it over to the other nations which have not yet developed the vaccine but have the facility to manufacture it because it might affect their profit from the vaccine. What is the point of focusing only on economic gain when the very existence of mankind is in question? A fast receding population is sure to affect the pharma cos first and fast.

In this context the Biden administration in the United States has taken a welcome approach to the ongoing bickering. The decision by the Biden administration to suspend the patent for the COVID vaccine cannot be lauded more.

The Biden administration's decision follows a proposal by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the waiver of the patent would boost vaccine production globally. At the WTO General Assembly, 100 out of 164 member states supported the resolution. French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin have welcomed the sharing of technology behind the development of COVID vaccines. Emmanuel Macron opined that rich countries should make it a priority to make more vaccines available to poor countries. Putin has categorically said, "the priority is not for profit, but the safety of the people." Ursula Funde, President of the European Commission, said he was ready for talks with the United States to handle the issue practically and effectively. With a merciless eye on profit alone, countries around the world, including Switzerland, Germany, Britain, Brazil and Japan, which are home to the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, have taken a stand against the United States, France and Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the challenge facing the world in the manufacture of vaccines is not to repeal patent laws but to increase the vaccine’s availability and ensure its quality. Germany says the vaccine should be available to all countries but that patents must exist to ensure quality at all stages. But it is hopeful that human rights groups in Germany have staged protests and demonstrations against Angela Merkel's comments.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also said that any alteration of patent laws was against intellectual property rights. US pharmaceutical companies have also argued that waiving the COVID vaccine patent will not necessarily increase its production. The pharmaceutical companies claim that the removal of the patent law would confuse the public and private sectors, undermine the existing system and, in effect, delay the manufacture of the vaccine. They argue that the global vaccine distribution network needs to be expanded to strengthen the vaccine supply. None of these arguments have any relevance when the people fall of like flies both in the rich nations and in the poor ones. Undoubtedly, the white-collar mafia living in the corridors of power is the largest in the pharmaceutical sector and the doctors' organizations. It is the private hospital-pharmacy-physician team that determines and influences the health policy of many countries. At least in this dire situation, they have to stop thinking only about money and start thinking about worthier things. This is the time to think of values and not of prices. The secret agenda of the rich drug mafis is nothing but suicidal so long as COVID, like hunger, chooses to kill only the poor. The waves that come one after the other is already cutting the ground from under their feet too. Remember, it would be foolish to ignore the warnings of the revenge goddess of the universe. Moreover, as Shakespeare says in The Merchant of Venice:

How shalt thou hope for mercy, rendering none?

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