The government of the American president, Joe Biden, On Wednesday (5) announced its support for the suspension of patent protection for vaccines against Covid-19, in order to accelerate the production and distribution of immunization devices worldwide. It is a very important change in the country’s position regarding the subject (Read more below).
On the other hand, Brazil has traditionally supported breaking drug patents – this was the case with anti-HIV drugs, for example – but has been against suspension in the case of antiviral vaccines. This change of position was still adopting during the Donald Trump administration.
In the United States, while corporate intellectual property rights are important, Washington “supports the exemption for these preventive vaccines for the Covid-19 virus,” US Trade Representative Catherine Tye said in a statement on Wednesday.
He added, “This is a global health crisis, and the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 epidemic call for exceptional measures to be taken.”
“We will actively participate in the necessary negotiations with the World Trade Organization for this to happen,” the statement said. Tai warns that “these negotiations will take time, given the consensual nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”
According to the representative of the United States, the goal is to ensure the largest number of safe and effective vaccines for a greater number of people in the shortest possible time, and now that the doses are already guaranteed to Americans, efforts will be expanded to help expand and distribute.
Previously, the US was totally against patent breaks, along with the UK, Switzerland and European countries. The idea was floated by South Africa and India and supported by dozens of developing countries, but not by Brazil.
The argument of the developed country group is that these patents will be necessary to encourage research and development in the field of medicines.
But on April 28 of this year, Foreign Minister Carlos Franca said he did not consider the patent-breaking possibility the most effective way to speed up vaccination in the country according to the Brazilian agency. According to him, the violation will not have short-term effects, due to limited access to the production inputs for immunization devices and limitations in production capacity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said In early February According to a BBC report – around 200 million vaccines have been given against Covid-19. But 75% of these vaccines, the WHO says, were given only in 10 rich countries.
In nearly 130 countries, where more than 2.5 billion people live, almost no vaccine has been received, says Gavin Yami, professor of global health and public policy at Duke University in the United States.
The expert said, “It was very frustrating to see how the rich countries emptied the shelves. The vaccines were found saying ‘I am first’ and ‘I only’ and this is not only very unfair but also an outrageous situation for public health.” For the BBC.
Indeed, experts guarantee that to stop this global pandemic, a global response is needed, because the crisis cannot be ended if its populations are mass vaccinated in a few countries.
This is why drug companies have submitted proposals to temporarily suspend patents on their vaccines and share their technological expertise in order to end what experts call “vaccine segregation”.
Patents protect the intellectual property of a product so that it cannot be copied. In the pharmaceutical industry, when a drug is discovered and developed, the company registers a patent for its discovery so that no one else can manufacture it without your permission.
This makes it possible to control prices and production, which in turn can lead in some cases to high prices and not reaching the poorest of the drugs.
One of the proposals to accelerate the production of vaccines, pioneered by the World Health Organization, is the so-called C-TAP (Shared Access to Technologies against Covid-19, in free translation).
This is a global mechanism for voluntarily sharing knowledge, data and intellectual property for health technologies to control disease.
C-Tap was created by the World Health Organization in June 2020 and signed by nearly 40 countries, but Raquel Gonzalez, head of external relations at Doctors Without Borders (MSF), explains that no technology has been shared yet.
Another way to get pharmaceutical companies to share their technologies is that South Africa and India have submitted to the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual property rights for vaccines during a pandemic.
But wealthier nations oppose the proposal, arguing that the patent suspension would impede scientific innovation by discouraging private investors from participating in this segment.
They also state that current regulations that allow drug manufacturers to enter into bilateral agreements with generic drug manufacturers are “flexible enough when it comes to dealing with a public health emergency.”
“Intellectual property is an essential part of our industry,” said Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, in May 2020, during a press conference discussing the creation of C-Tap. “And if you are not protecting the intellectual property, then there is basically no incentive for anyone to innovate.”
Critics point, however, that pharmaceutical companies have received billions of public funds, mainly from the United States and Europe, to develop the coveted vaccines, so they must share their technology.
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