Vaccines

Don't Suspend Vaccine Patents, We're Already on Track To Vaccinate 7 Billion People in 2021

This is no time to undermine intellectual property rights for vaccine makers.

|

Vaccinating billions of people across the globe is an urgent necessity for curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. As long as the virus continues to circulate more or less freely in the world, it may mutate into variants that the current suite of highly successful vaccines cannot suppress. Assuming that achieving herd immunity requires that 70 percent of the world's population be immunized, that amounts to 5.4 billion fully inoculated people (some of whom would be among the several hundred million who have already recovered from the disease after being infected).

How can we speed up the process of getting vaccines distributed around the world? One proposal being floated at the World Trade Organization by a group of around 100 poorer countries is to temporarily suspend intellectual property rules related to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Activist groups like the People's Vaccine Alliance assert that suspending the vaccine patents "will help break Big Pharma monopolies and increase supplies so there are enough doses for everyone, everywhere." In addition, leading American politicians including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) are urging President Joe Biden to agree to this step.

This is a bad idea. First, vaccines are complicated biological products that cannot be reverse-engineered the way many regular pharmaceuticals can be. Additionally, manufacturing them takes special expertise and purpose-built facilities that are simply not available outside of most developed countries. Releasing vaccine recipes won't do poor countries any practical good with respect to actually getting doses distributed and administered to their citizens.

Although clearly self-interested, the director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations Thomas B. Cueni correctly argued in his New York Times op-ed:

Dismantling patent protection would do nothing to expand access to vaccines or to boost global manufacturing capacity. Research scientists develop vaccines in record time because they have the security and resources that come with a robust system of protection for their intellectual property. That system is crucial to allowing companies to create the vaccines we need for wide distribution.

So how feasible is getting 5.4 billion people vaccinated by the end of this year? Let's take a quick look at the promises and projections made by the various vaccine makers both currently approved and likely to be approved by the middle of this year.

Pfizer/BioNTech: 2.5 billion doses of the two-dose mRNA vaccine.

Moderna: 700 million doses of the two-dose mRNA vaccine; 1.4 billion in 2022.

CureVac: 455 million doses of the two-dose mRNA vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson: 1 billion doses of the one-dose viral vector.

CanSinoBIO: 500 million doses of the one-dose viral vector.

Sputnik V: 300 million doses of the two-dose viral vector.

AstraZeneca: 3 billion doses of the two-dose viral vector.

Novavax: 2 billion dose capacity of the two-dose spike protein.

Sinovac: 2 billion dose capacity of the two-dose killed virus.

Bharat Biotech: 700 million doses of the two-dose killed virus.

Making the huge assumption that all will go well with testing and manufacturing, the above figures suggest that there could be enough COVID-19 vaccines to fully vaccinate more than 7 billion people by the end of this year. If this is the case, supporting the efforts of groups like the COVAX consortium to get vaccines to poor countries, not seizing vaccine makers' patents, is the real way to save lives and end the pandemic.

NEXT: Why Can’t You Buy a Starbucks on the Interstate?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. will help break Big Pharma monopolies

    Plural monopolies?? lol.

    Anyway this stunt is way more about “breaking monopolies” than about worldwide vaccine distribution.

    1. In this thread jeff doesn’t understand what a patent does and how it provides a monopoly on a given drug for a certain period.

      1. Your feud with chemjeff is making you irrational and missing the point. By definition, there can’t be monopolies within the same market. It has nothing to do with what a patent does. The fact that the People’s Vaccine Alliance said “Big Pharma monopolies” is a clue that they don’t understand the first thing about economics, incentives or human behavior.

        By the way, did “People’s Vaccine Alliance” make anyone else immediately think of the People’s Judean Front skit?

      1. You’d think Reason’s filters would recognize this ‘bot by now; nope

        1. LOL, you think Reason has bot filters, or puts any effort into moderating the comments section.

    2. LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITY BE an Internet HOME-BASED real Earner.I am just working on facebook only 3 to 4 hours a Day and earning £47786 a month easily, that is handsome earning to meet my extra expenses and bhgy bthat is really life changing opportunity. Let me give you a little insight into what I do….. Visit Here

    3. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple jobCREWto do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

  2. Elon Musk’s Neuralink company, which is developing brain implants that let people control machines with their minds, just released a video of a monkey that can plan Pong with its mind.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ya-bAYri84

    I thought for sure this would be the subject of any Bailey post today, so I was wrong about that, but I wasn’t wrong to think monkeys would develop telekinetic like superpowers before ChemJeff, White Knight, Tony, and Shrike start using their minds to do anything.

    1. Oh aren’t you funny.

      It isn’t my fault that you are turning into a MAGA cultist before our very eyes. Don’t blame the messenger and all that.

      1. STFU fatty.

        1. No you. You contribute nothing meaningful at all to these forums.

          1. Mirror. Need one?

          2. By the way…. America shut down the cou try because people like you couldn’t put a cookie down.

            https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/08/covid-cdc-study-finds-roughly-78percent-of-people-hospitalized-were-overweight-or-obese.html

            So he is right to be pissed off at you.

        2. no i dont think so
          https://mirland.ir/

      2. Lol. Man. You are still taking yesterday’s 4 biden criticism articles way too hard.

      3. Ken is no more a MAGA cultist than you are a libertarian. Or an individualist.

      4. Is he turning MAGA? Outstanding!

        It was inevitable. Truth is on our side.

    2. The monkey can suck it. I have opposable thumbs.

      1. So do monkeys?

      2. They do too, and they’re smarter than you.

        1. Monkeys don’t get the chemical formula for water wrong. WK does.

  3. This is why these people can’t be in charge of healthcare.

    They will literally look at a system saving millions of lives and say “fuck it: I hate pharma companies! Let’s get ‘em”!

  4. Dismantling patent protection would do nothing to expand access to vaccines or to boost global manufacturing capacity. Research scientists develop vaccines in record time because they have the security and resources that come with a robust system of protection for their intellectual property. That system is crucial to allowing companies to create the vaccines we need for wide distribution.

    This is just PR from the trade association. The opposite of the first sentence would be just as true as the way it is written. The second sentence says nothing and pretty much ignores the reality that this vaccines timeframe involved massive amounts of money from governments and the elimination of risk (the usual reason that the existing pharma IP system is defended). And the third sentence is just flimflam and bullshit that ignores monopoly101 – which is how all patents work.

    This is just the prep work for the usual IP argument re pharmas. Specifically that the US does everything it can to squash distribution

    More than ever I am convinced that the CDC and its UK equivalent deliberately mismanaged this whole virus thing. To ensure that THIS is the endgame here. The virus in a nice healthy state of spreading and mutating. Vaccines as the annual prophylactic. This is what makes money for the cronies and corporate pigs at the trough. This is what ensures continual funding of the bureaucracy into the future.

    1. The virus in a nice healthy state of spreading and mutating. Vaccines as the annual prophylactic. This is what makes money for the cronies and corporate pigs at the trough.

      Oh come on. This is just conspiratorial nonsense. It is about as truthful as believing that George Soros is drinking baby blood in the basement of Comet Pizza.

      1. chemjeff radical individualist
        April.9.2021 at 7:31 pm
        No you. You contribute nothing meaningful at all to these forums.

      2. Forget ‘deliberate’ then. Imagine the CDC as an organization that sees the only successful outcome as ‘vaccine’.

    2. Ron’s first point is that, completely regarless of IP, no one could competitively produce and distribute the vaccine. He then goes on to explain how the IP is unequivocably necessary for the production of the vaccine.

      Ron’s assertion in light of Reason and his own reporting on CDC regulation of diagnostic testing, government contracting failing to produce any effective vaccine, general support of biohacking, etc., it laughably incoherent by both scientific and libertarian standards.

      1. What is quoted is not Ron. It is Thomas Cueni – of that pharm trade association

    3. More than ever I am convinced that the CDC and its UK equivalent deliberately mismanaged this whole virus thing. To ensure that THIS is the endgame here.

      Regular vaccination was the obvious endgame from the start, and it has nothing to do with IP law or the quality of the public health bureaucracy.

      You’ve got this bee in your bonnet about how the west could have somehow gone god mode on the populace and eradicated COVID, but that was never, ever possible. The die was cast in autumn 2019 that this was a new challenge we’d just have to adapt to; the only variable is the time horizons on which we judge the reactions.

    4. “…Specifically that the US does everything it can to squash distribution…”

      Maybe one day JFree will post without lying; haven’t seen if yet.

      1. There was a post he made years ago which just described LVT that was accurate.

    5. “pretty much ignores the reality that this vaccines timeframe involved massive amounts of money from governments and the elimination of risk (the usual reason that the existing pharma IP system is defended).”

      A lot of rage against violations of the free market. Except when it helps those who Own over those who Labor.

      Benjamin Tucker’s critique of Herbert Spencer in 1884 applies to most all of Reason’s articles on economics.

      It will be noticed that in these later articles, amid his multitudinous illustrations (of which he is as prodigal as ever) of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed, ostensibly at least, to protect labor, alleviate suffering, or promote the people’s welfare. He demonstrates beyond dispute the lamentable failure in this direction. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly. You must not protect the weak against the strong, he seems to say, but freely supply all the weapons needed by the strong to oppress the weak. He is greatly shocked that the rich should be directly taxed to support the poor, but that the poor should be indirectly taxed and bled to make the rich richer does not outrage his delicate sensibilities in the least. Poverty is increased by the poor laws, says Mr. Spencer. Granted; but what about the rich laws that caused and still cause the poverty to which the poor laws add? That is by far the more important question; yet Mr. Spencer tries to blink it out of sight.

      1. The Free Market Uber Alles, except…
        Corporate limited liability
        Government monopolies in “intellectual property”
        Differential tax treatment for wages and capital gains as income
        Tax on income instead of property
        Violation of Lockean Proviso

        1. Devout right-libertarians hate the Lockean proviso. (See Murray “Mr. Libertarian” Rothbard for details.) It creates obstacles for passive private rent capture by wealthy landholders and natural resource speculators.

  5. Interesting article about vaccine distribution and administration by state.

    There’s politics at work even here. And I suspect the serious partisans are completely ok with that.

    1. The undercurrent of that article and most others from the scoreboard obsessives is that the very existence of COVID moving forward constitutes the same grave threat to the acute care infrastructure it did last Feb, even though vaccines cut transmission by 90% and complication by an additional 90%, and 40 some-odd % of the refuseniks have already been exposed/infected and received the same benefit. So what then, we can’t get back to normal until we get to the hallowed (and ever shifting) 70-85% vaccination goal? Come off it.

      If a solution is readily available and a certain segment of the population refuses to partake then why is is it my problem? If my brother refuses my help then I am no longer his keeper.

  6. Hey Ronald, just wondering, as a “science correspondent,” have you found any news out there justifying the use of an experimental vaccine in 7 billion people, for a virus with a 99.98% survival rate? Oh wait, I forgot to mention that it isn’t really a vaccine (which uses an attenuated or inactivated virus), it is experimental mRNA technology which has never been approved for use in humans by any regulatory body. Quit pretending to be a journalist and just admit you’re a Big Pharma puppet. You should be embarrassed.

    1. “…Quit pretending to be a journalist and just admit you’re a Big Pharma puppet. You should be embarrassed.”

      Tin-foil hats are on aisle #6, and, assuming you’re older than 10, it’s obvious you’re too fucking stupid top be embarrassed.

      1. #NotAnArgument

    2. Nice, succinct, to the point…:) Maybe, Ronald Bailey has some conflicts of interest he might like to share?!?

  7. This is a bad idea. First, vaccines are complicated biological products that cannot be reverse-engineered the way many regular pharmaceuticals can be. Additionally, manufacturing them takes special expertise and purpose-built facilities that are simply not available outside of most developed countries. Releasing vaccine recipes won’t do poor countries any practical good with respect to actually getting doses distributed and administered to their citizens.

    WTF? So, because these vaccines are complex products completely intolerant to the production difficulties posed by third world conditions they need additional protection by first-world governments against shadowy pharma-pirate cabals (that somehow overcome the third-world conditions) lest the whole “never-before-seen development and distribution of vaccines to novel viruses by billion-dollar multi-national corporations” house of cards comes tumbling down?

    JFC. I want my 9/11-was-an-inside-jobbers back, at least the overwhelming majority of them were too stupid to be plausibly contributing to a larger agenda. I honestly don’t see how Russian Hackers who stole the 2016 election by spending less than $200K on Facebook ads getting their hands on the vaccine IP is in any way detrimental. Unless, of course, it’s a Jonathan Gruber/Clinton-Wikileaks/AGW Emailgate “We have to lie to people for their own good.” type of situation. In which case, I don’t see how them getting their hands on the IP is, in any way, detrimental.

    1. I mean, fuck, even the companies, protected and not, that have IP stolen by Chinese pirates recognize the stupidity of your assertion and make the objective argument that the Chinese compete by deceptively offering cheaper, even subsidized, lower-grade crap under false labels.

    2. Reason Magazine: IP created by corporations and defended by governments and can only exist conceptually has more real world applicability and impact than the widespread fiction perpetrated by evil nationalists known as borders.

    3. I agree with your first point (I’ll leave alone the 9/11 & other stuff). The complexity of production actually argues AGAINST needing IP protection, should have been left out of the argument.
      It should be entirely possible to think IP law is severely screwed up, should be weakened, yet to some extent maintained to protect producers of something like the miracle vaccines that are going to save our butts.

      1. yet to some extent maintained to protect producers of something like the miracle vaccines that are going to save our butts

        This is when it makes the least sense. When we talk about relatively innocuous stuff like patented teaching technologies and their effects on test scores in a confined region, things like a priori method protection based on regionality might make some sense. Setting aside whether current events constitute such, an existential or humanity-wide crisis is precisely the time to set aside purely academic discussions over who invented pink, who invented light red, who did so first, and how valuable the distinction is. We are all better off saving the lives first and balancing the checkbook in arrears. To say otherwise refutes virtually all the other precepts about anti-nationalism, anti-fascism, anti-racism, free trade/globalism, diversity, decentralized ingenuity, etc., etc.

        I don’t subscribe to white supremacy or anti-racist/CRT ideology, but I can’t think of a better way to validate and reinforce both simultaneously than to say that a white man in N. America and a black man in Africa who have the same idea at the same time should be forced to a metaphorical foot race to their respective patent offices for the validity/viabiity of their idea and confined to a strict win-loss outcome.

        1. Africa and the US have very different systems. Most African nations are heavily socialist/beaurocratically controlled. Not it has nothing to do with race. Don’t worry though the US is creeping ever closer to the governance of African nations

          1. Africa and the US have very different systems. Most African nations are heavily socialist/beaurocratically controlled. Not it has nothing to do with race.

            I didn’t say it had anything to do with race. My example is predicated on the idea that the white man and the black man came up with the exact same idea at the exact same time. I said it objectively checks off the self-justification checkboxes of both white supremacy and CRT’s notions of systemic racism.

            More to my point, what’s the problem if socialists discover the secret formula for COVID vaccines? Either they’re going to vaccinate a bunch of people against COVID, they aren’t, or they’re going to do something else with the technology which would constitute unprotected IP.

            Even in some hypothetical scenario where the free market discovers the idea but the socialist economy seizes control of the market through unfair/inhumane trade practices and/or price manipulations, that’s an argument against unfair and inhumane trade practices and price manipulations, not an argument in favor of protecting IP.

            In the age of land barons and times when Protestants had to flee the King’s lands and any unscrupulous competitor could walk over the next hill, build a factory to produce an actual product, and yank your customer base out from under you, broad IP protections based around physical goods made sense. In the age of global trade of both goods and information, the need to protect phones with round edges from competition by phones with less round edges effectively a priori is arcane and unnecessarily burdensome.

  8. CGTMSE scheme is introduced to support Business with adequate flow of debt or Loans to micro, small & medium enterprises irrespective of collateral availability. An entrepreneur can avail Working Capital Loans, Project Loans or other expansion loans without collateral under CGTMSE Scheme. In other words if an entrepreneur has viable business idea with visible executions capabilities then Funds can be availed under CGTMSE Scheme without collateral.

  9. Keep in mind that in addition to the robust IP protections to incentivize the production of new vaccines, it is also necessary to immunize the vaccine makers from lawsuits due to problems with the vaccines. Privatize the profits and socialize the losses, it’s the American way. Heads we win, tails you lose.

    1. Keep in mind that in addition to the robust IP protections to incentivize the production of new vaccines, it is also necessary to immunize the vaccine makers from lawsuits due to problems with the vaccines.

      The USPTO specifically doesn’t evaluate their ideas for feasibility, efficacy, or moral rectitude but, by virtue of them having a patent, we know they’re intentions are good. It says right there in their patent that their novel arsenic injections could save lives. So, we are obligated to protect their idea.

      1. Ugh, *their* intentions.

  10. Bailey wrote
    “Assuming that achieving herd immunity requires that 70 percent of the world’s population be immunized, that amounts to 5.4 billion fully inoculated people (some of whom would be among the several hundred million who have already recovered from the disease after being infected).”

    Except the “some” who were inoculated by past infection greatly outnumber the number who have become immune via the vaccines (44% vs 18% of Americans to date, as per below).

    Since 9.6% of Americans have tested positive for covid, and since CDC estimates 4.6 times more Americans have been infected (than tested positive), about 44% of Americans have been previously infected (.096 x 4.6 = .442), and virtually all of them remain immune (as only 11 cases of reinfection are known in the US, and just 66 worldwide).

    But while 44% of Americans are NOW IMMUNE due to past infection, Big Pharma/CDC/FDA/Fauci and left wing media propagandists (including previously scientific Bailey and Sullum) continue to DENY this key fact, and those who told the truth have been falsely smeared as unscientific (Rand Paul, Scott Atlas, Barrington Declaration signers, etc.).

    Although 34.5% of Americans have received a 1st covid vaccine dose, about 44% of them were already immune (due to past infection). And since the 1st vaccine dose appears 90% effective, 1st doses of vaccine have (to date) conferred immunity to only about 17% of Americans (.345 x .56 x .9 = .174).

    Even worse, while 20.5% of Americans have received a 2nd covid vaccine dose, since about 44% of them were already immune (due to past infection) and since 90% of the rest were already immune (due to 1st vaccine dose), the 2nd vaccine doses have only conferred immunity to about 1% of Americans (.205 x .56 x .1 = .011).

    In sum, according to CDC data and infection rate estimate, 44% of Americans are now immune from covid (due to44 past infection), 17% of Americans are now immune (due to 1st vaccine dose), and 1% of Americans are immune (due to 2nd vaccine dose), for a total of 62% of Americans who are now immune from covid (which is getting close to the 70% cited by Bailey, which I agree with).

    So in fact, past covid infections have conferred immunity to about 2.4 times more Americans (.44/.18=2.44) than have all the covid vaccines touted by the daily cacophony of newspeak.

    The good news is that several dozen states (mostly red states) are very close to achieving herd immunity.

    The only five states where vaccines have or will confer immunity to more people than past infections are those with covid case rates of <5% (HI, VT, ME, OR, WA).

    1. While proposing that the WTO suspend patent rights for covid vaccines is a terrible idea (and yet another reason Bailey and others at Reason should have backed Trump instead of Biden), Bailey’s promotion of Big Pharma vaccines and his omissions about natural herd immunity and the lack of reinfections are disappointing.

  11. Activist groups like the People’s Vaccine Alliance assert that suspending the vaccine patents “will help break Big Pharma monopolies and increase supplies so there are enough doses for everyone, everywhere. the chance they take a hard pass during the next pandemic.”

    FTFY

    1. Yeah, I’m sure that the next time politicians whip up a fervor over a disease that doesn’t kill >99% of people it infects, Big Pharma will suddenly realize that they have enough money and that by jumping onto bed with the government, they might get screwed.

  12. If there’s one topic where Reason can truly be counted on to defend the libertarian position, it’s when the libertarian position lines up with the interests of Big Pharma.

    1. No kidding.

      7 billion people for a virus with a 99.9x% survival rate.

      So tired of this shit and hysteria.

      Quebec lost its fucken mind under this moron in power.

  13. “This is no time to undermine intellectual property rights for vaccine makers.”

    I must have missed the part where Ron said:
    “This is no time to undermine legal liabilities for medical manufacturers and service providers.”

    But that’s Reason’s idea of a free market. The ruling class is free to make profits without responsibility for damages done by the actions to make those profits.

    1. Just in case you needed reminding that Reason is an economically RIGHT-libertarian publication. Those dirty left-libertarian radicals who fail to appreciate the beauty of well lubricated corporate capitalism are the ones who concern themselves with negative externalities and Pigouvian full-cost accounting.

  14. Yes, it’s very important that drug makers who get total legal immunity from all liability regarding the use and side effects of their vaccines and take government grants to fund the development of their vaccines get to retain the exclusive rights to their vaccines and retain all of the revenue from their use. Libertarians for Italian fascism!

    1. Pretty good gig if you can get it. You shouldn’t be able to get it, but you have the FDA to protect you from scary competition by any pesky startups. And Congress to back them up and let their armies of lobbyists write laws to pass.

  15. Unfortunately, under current FDA requirements, we can’t get rid of pharmaceutical patents without R&D grinding to a screeching halt. That said, protectionist patent (and copyright) law is in dire need of reform.

  16. In all of this discussion and argument over IP for the experimental gene therapy being mis-labeled as “vaccines”, everyone seems to have missed the point that Ronald Bailey has apparently been hired as a propagandist for the pharmaceutical companies. “highly successful vaccines” is apparently how we’re supposed to describe a scheme for depopulating the planet. When people start dying off from these “vaccines”, the media will no doubt spin them as from a completely different cause. With Ronald Bailey leading the charge. How is he still writing for what used to be a libertarian, state-limiting publication?

  17. Intellectual Property is not property. Knowledge is not scarce (well, in some ways it is huehuehuehue). Often IP takes the form of ‘you may not manipulate and manage your property into the form which I have been granted a monopoly on. If you attempt to replicate or approximate the configuration of my property, the state will take coercive and ultimately violent action.’

    For pharma, IP has led to the US having some of the highest drug costs in the world. India is nowhere near the economy the US is, yet the generics market thrives and drugs are cheap. IP is good for the big guy, but terrible for the world. It makes everyone poorer in the real sense (goods and service availability, and quality of life).

    Of course Bailey’s take is that of the nanny state monopolist…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.