The Briefing

Release of Patents and Vaccines for All?

Why isn't everyone allowed to produce vaccines?

June 3, 2021
Reading time 2 min.

🌈 A quick taster for you:

  • US calls for release of vaccine patents
  • There are not enough production facilities
  • You will probably not be vaccinated earlier


🧐 Why do I care?

  • Have you been vaccinated yet? Probably not, right? An end to the pandemic came suddenly into view when it was reported that BioNTech and other companies had developed vaccines.
  • And why should I be interested in the patent now?
    The big question that arises now is whether, by releasing the vaccine patent, more vaccine can be produced and administered more quickly, so that we can all have our old lives back again.


πŸ” What exactly is happening here?

  • What does it mean to own a patent on a vaccine?
    Through the vaccine patent of BioNTech, for example, they receive the sole right to produce their vaccine.
  • What could be the benefits of releasing the vaccine patent?
    - An increase in vaccine doses, because more companies can produce vaccine.
    - This would result in more vaccinations because more vaccine is available.
    - Due to the increase in the supply of vaccine doses, prices would decrease because people would simply buy from company B if they thought company A’s prices were too high.Β 
    - This could also give poorer countries access to vaccine.
    - The higher the number of the world's population that is vaccinated, the lower the chances are of further virus mutations.‍
  • Sounds great at first, doesn't it? What’s the problem?Β  ‍
    There are several problems that the federal government but also the vaccine manufacturers see:
    - Patent protection promotes innovation
    and patents are very important, especially in pharmaceuticals.
    - Companies invest extremely large amounts of money in research to cure diseases. If you don't find a solution, you make big losses. However, if you find a solution, you can apply for a patent and be the only one to earn money from it.
    In addition, the bottleneck in vaccine production is currently not due to the producers, but to the non-existent production facilities – other companies would also have to set these up first.


πŸ€“ What does this mean for me?

  • So if there are enough production sites, is there enough vaccine?
    You could assume so! So probably, no matter how it is decided, you will still not be vaccinated faster.
  • Will poorer countries benefit at least?
    Poorer countries would still be unlikely to get vaccine doses cheaper if the patents were released.
    - Many of the producing countries have sharply limited the export of vaccine.
    - Even when production capacity increases, there is often a lack of competition in poorer countries, which keeps costs high.


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