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Removing intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines will do more harm than good, says international coalition

Today, an international coalition of 27 think tanks called on governments to reject a proposal at the World Trade Organisation to cancel intellectual property rights for Covid vaccines.

The Joint Declaration credits IP for the research collaborations and manufacturing partnerships all over the world that have accelerated vaccine production. Rivals have shared proprietary compounds, platforms and technologies to develop Covid vaccines in record time. Manufacturers are on track to make 12 billion doses by the end of 2021 – potentially sufficient to achieve global herd immunity.

“These partnerships would not happen without the legal certainties provided by IP rights. Rip up the rules and the partnerships may crumble. The last thing the world needs at this delicate stage is a complete reshuffling of the deck — and that’s what’s implied by the WTO proposal,” said Philip Stevens, executive director of Geneva Network and coalition spokesman.

The coalition says a zero IP world would be a giant step backward, discouraging partnerships and discouraging companies from refining their existing vaccines to combat new Covid-19 variants.

“The WTO proposal could derail every vaccine-manufacturing licensing deal, throwing global supply chains into chaos,” said Stevens. “It would jeopardize the billions of dollars currently being invested in upgrading manufacturing facilities and creating new ones.”

IP has been the unsung hero of the pandemic, underpinning the ecosystem that enabled the private sector to create new vaccines so quickly.

“With the precedent set at the WTO, few companies will want to invest in new vaccines when the next pandemic comes. This would put the world at the mercy of government labs to research, develop, and manufacture vaccines. That’s a scary prospect,” says Stevens.

“Intellectual property rights matter; they will help us end this pandemic and help us prepare better for the next one,” he adds.

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