To Share or Not to Share Intellectual Property Rights: Covid Vaccine Patents and Developing Countries


Prof. Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

12 Mar 2021 – The availability and approval of different vaccines against Covid[i] was globally welcomed but has faced a series of new challenges.[ii]  These range from serious problems inherent to the production of the vaccine, with supply chain management,[iii] availability of stocks to vaccinate, who should receive the vaccine first, government officials “jumping the queue”[iv], corruption in distribution, the rich are vaccinated, while the poor are excluded, vaccine apartheid in Israel[v], export bans of vaccines in the country of manufacture[vi], short dated vaccines sent to South Africa[vii], an ever growing anti-vaccine lobby[viii], vaccine hesitancy[ix] and vaccine related serious adverse reactions, including suspension of Astra Zeneca vaccines in certain Northern European countries[x].

In addition, World Health Organisation has given its blessing on the safety of the Astra Zeneca Vaccine after reviewing the clinical trial data[xi], to allay community fears. Further challenges to the Covid vaccines include, legal contracts not being honoured by certain vaccine manufacturers[xii], however, the grand finale in these ever-emerging range of challenges and counter challenges, is the global call for cancelling the patent registration of vaccines so that poor countries could reproduce the formulae and manufacture the vaccines for use in these countries without the financial burden of purchasing them with valuable foreign currency, being depleted in the process[xiii].

Recent scientific progress includes, a new nasal vaccine, focusing on saliva, is being researched, as a solution to parts of the developing world.[xiv] This vaccine aims to protect the patients and prevents the virus spreading from patient to patient, via droplet infections. This is the “Bristol Project”[xv] aimed at protecting humans against other much larger number of variants of the corona virus.  These are innovations which are already in the making and will probably be subject to the same challenges experienced by the first-generation vaccines.[xvi]

Concomitant with these substantive breakthrough Covid vaccine innovations, requests were lodged by South Africa, Thailand and Bulgaria to deregister the vaccine patents.[xvii]  Wealthy nations have already vaccinated multitude of their citizens, while poorer nations have not even commenced, as yet, with the immunization programme.[xviii]

There are three possible scenarios with respect to the various Covid vaccine intellectual property rights[xix].  Each of these scenarios needs to be examined in a global, scientific, economic, humanitarian, and research context, all impacting on the future existence of the humanoids.[xx]

In a capitalist society[xxi], which we are all living in and experiencing, financial gain is the foremost motivational factor and driving force.  It is the obvious strategy for big pharma[xxii] to formulate an innovative medical therapy, or medical device and then to ensure that is it successfully tested in clinical trials, based on accepted Good Clinical Practice[xxiii], prior to its use on the general population for a specific disease or medical condition.  The same principles apply to the formulation of a vaccine to be used in a disease context.  The innovator, usually a scientist or academic, in the field of biochemistry or medical engineering, then approaches a pharmaceutical company who purchases the rights to the new molecule in the case of a new medication, or, technology, investing millions of “pharma dollars”[xxiv] to develop the entity, before it is marketed to the public.

The big pharma executives undertake a feasibility study and engage in a gamble to invest in this entity to market it in the future.  These clinical tests go through different phases of clinical trials[xxv] using animal studies, healthy volunteers, and eventually Phase 3 and 4 clinical trials based, using patients, on ethical principles.  The same has happened in the development of vaccines during the Covid pandemic.  The only difference was that the entire process, which usually takes up to a decade, was fast tracked, in view of the urgency of the need to develop the vaccine.  This was the “Operation Warp Speed”[xxvi] initiated by the former President of the United States, President Donald Trump.[xxvii]

In this process thousands of Pharma Dollars are spent in the trust and firm belief that the investors and shareholders have in the directors of Big Pharma, that their investments will be multiplied and recouped multifold, if the vaccine works.  Of course, there may be setbacks, experienced, as in the suspension of the rollout of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, due to the possible association with blood clotting, as a serious adverse event.[xxviii]

If the public confidence in the vaccine is lost, then the company stands to lose billions of Pharma Dollars in the process and the entire undertaking becomes an exercise in futility, with an abysmal failure.  On the contrary, if all goes according to the plan, then the parties concerned will literally “laugh their way, with Pharma Dollars, to the banks”[xxix]. In this case the Big Pharma feels exonerated that they have justified their massive capital investments and are entitled to enforcing the drug patents[xxx], at least for the next ten years, from which they will harvest their returns, generating handsome dividends for the shareholders.[xxxi]

There is certainly no question of sharing their intellectual property rights, which are non-negotiable and serious legal action will be taken against any infringements of their patents.  The poor countries that cannot afford the medication, in this case the vaccine will just have to fit into the system and do without it.[xxxii]

In the second scenario, the company which has developed the entity will decide to have the technology made freely available to every country, based on humanitarian grounds, and help in the crisis, as in the present case, the Covid pandemic. This is rarely the case and will not result in any income being generated for the big Pharma which has spent millions of Pharma Dollars in the development of the entity.

The result in this scenario will be that further research and development will not be encouraged, medications will not be innovated, and all future prospects of newer medication and technology development will come to a halt, in the pursuit of deregistering the income generating patent formulated for the betterment of humanity.  This, single, important point is often overlooked by the protagonists of philanthropy and altruism.[xxxiii]  The aim of this scenario is the collective uplifting of the bottomless pit of the poorer nation, which itself is poor for multiple reasons.

The possible reasons for the regional impoverishment, are old, colonial legacy of exploiting the countries resources[xxxiv], economic plundering by multinationals[xxxv], in association with corrupt governments, especially in Africa[xxxvi]. Mismanagement of state funds, state capture, as in South Africa[xxxvii], uncontrolled population explosions, with no family planning[xxxviii], poor state management with progressive economic decline, rampant inflation, massive unemployment with nepotism and “jobs for pals”[xxxix] and emergence of “The Haves” and “Have Nots”[xl] in the society.  This results in the masses engaging in criminal activities, development of criminal cartels[xli] and survival of the fittest.

The third scenario for reflection is The Covid pandemic.[xlii] This is a biological and a biogenetic cleansing[xliii] process to ensure the survival of the fittest in the fragile ecosystem[xliv], plundered by the multinationals[xlv] and aided by corrupt governments.[xlvi]  It is regrettably aided by the multinationals that will not make available the formulae for the design of the vaccine[xlvii] to poorer countries, enabling them to manufacture their own vaccines.  However, it must be remembered that if this was not the case and the patents[xlviii] were violated or deregistered, finance for research and development of future medicine in general, as well as medical innovative technologies would not be available for the lack of financial incentives and all future research would come to a standstill.[xlix]

The humanity is therefore doomed again by the process of natural selection.[l]  This is borne out in the lack of development of newer antibiotics[li] which have emerged in the past four decades, while evolution of the “super bug”[lii] continues exponentially, eventually resulting in the total annihilation of humanity as we know it today.  The processes of natural selection are alive and well today, as enunciated by Charles Darwin[liii] when he published his extremely controversial tome, containing theories with anti-religious sentiments[liv] at the time; “Evolution of Species”[lv] in 1859, after a five-year research embarking on his trip, in the HMS Beagle.[lvi]

In conclusion, humanity has brought upon itself mechanisms for its biological self-destruction, with different self-perpetuating vicious cycles, of global, climate change[lvii], widespread pollution of land[lviii], global, oceanic contamination[lix], overpopulation[lx], epigenetics[lxi], mass human displacements and migrations[lxii], and global economic manipulation[lxiii], often affecting humanoids in their quest for financial amassment and material gain, totally overlooking the lack of synchronisation with natural ecosystems of the universe.[lxiv]


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 Prof.  Hoosen Vawda, BSc, MBChB (Natal), ATLS, ACLS (NZ), PhD (Wits):
-Community Health and Indigent Programme Services–Social Outreach, Medical Programme (Not for Profit Organisation)
-Lifestyle Change Management – PR: 1501305, MP: 0193801



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Mar 2021.

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