Vaccine coverage is still low in large parts of the world. The question of whether the recipes for vaccines should be shared globally in order to speed up vaccination is still unanswered.
The omicron variant has led to the corona infection being on the rise in large parts of the world, and a number of countries are setting new infection records daily.
Experts have determined that the omicron variant causes less serious disease despite the fact that it is far more contagious than the previous variants. This could mean a possible way out of the pandemic, several have pointed out, although the uncertainty surrounding this is still great.
At the same time, many countries are struggling with slow supplies of covid-19 vaccines.
While large parts of the West have long been in the process of vaccinating their inhabitants for the third time, many poorer countries are lagging behind and are still on the first and second vaccination rounds.
The international vaccine collaboration Covax recently announced that they have only been promised just under NOK 1.7 billion so far this year. But they need close to NOK 46 billion to be able to supply the poorer countries in the world with vaccines in 2022.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned last month that rich countries cannot be vaccinated against the pandemic with refreshing doses because it deprives poor nations of doses. In such a situation, the coronavirus could continue to mutate further in areas with low vaccine coverage, the WHO warned.
In that case, the fear is that in the end there will be a mutant that the vaccines do not bite on, and thus the pandemic is further extended.
– This is a selfish approach from the West. This is a blind approach. It’s amazing that we still do not realize how closely we are connected to each other. That’s why I call the omicron variant the final proof, said Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The Red Cross and Unicef are among many who have spoken out to solve the problem by abolishing patent protection on coronary vaccines.
Thus, more countries will be able to produce the vaccine themselves and speed up the vaccination.
– To encourage innovation
The pharmaceutical industry, for its part, has warned that sharing prescriptions without compensation could counteract the development of new medicines. It can take many years to develop new medicines, and patent protection ensures that these costly processes are financed, claims Strasbourg-based patent expert Yann Basire to the news agency AFP.
– The main idea is to encourage innovation, says Basire.
This was also an argument that Germany’s former Prime Minister Angela Merkel leaned on when she last year opposed revoking the vaccine patent.
“I think we need the companies’ creativity and spirit of innovation, and for me this includes patent protection,” said Merkel, who added that without such protection, companies would not be able to produce vaccines adapted to any new virus variants as quickly.
Moreover, the situation is more complex than one can simply remove patent protection, the Paris-based lawyer Cyra Nargolwalla emphasizes to AFP.
– If you revoke all these patents, it will not only affect the vaccines, but also other products that have nothing to do with covid-19, she says.
Several of the major pharmaceutical companies have also pointed out that it is not patent protection that is putting sticks in the wheels of vaccination globally, but that it is the lack of vaccine components and insufficient infrastructure that are the biggest obstacles.
There are companies in countries around the world that would be able to start their own vaccine production, according to the UN-backed international organization Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which, however, emphasizes that there are solutions that do not necessarily mean abolishing patent protection completely.
– We believe that a licensing model, similar to the one we have for a number of medicines, can also work for the vaccines, says CEO Charles Gore in MPP.
MPP was established in 2010 to increase access to HIV medicine to poor countries. During the coronary pandemic, they have made a number of advances in making covid medicine available. In November, agreements were entered into to increase access to more corona tests, as well as Pfizer’s corona pill, which will be used as treatment for covid-19.
Researchers in Cape Town in South Africa are in the process of developing a coronary vaccine based on the Moderna vaccine. The goal is to create a version that can be stored at higher temperatures than the original vaccine, which requires storage in cold freezers. The development is still in an early phase, and MPP hopes to be able to land a license agreement with Moderna before the completion of the project, which is expected to take place in 2023.
– We feel confident that vaccine manufacturers in poorer countries will be able to both produce and distribute in their regions, says Gore.