“To go back a little bit, Covid is possibly the first global event that we’ve actually seen. One year after it really started, we are seeing all these vaccines. It is really quite incredible when you think about the scientific advancement, it has really been something quite extraordinary. But our systems of management globally of knowledge and health are weak and counterproductive and in adequate. I’d say they’re probably best described as unjust and incompetent.
Let’s start with this whole question of patent rights. Right from the outset it became quite clear that it was hindering the fight against covid. From the early days if you remember N95 masks we’re a concern, then treatments like remdesivir, so it’s not only a vaccine issue. This was the basis for last years’ call for the Covid technology access pool, which was rebuffed despite widespread support. It was rebuffed by the advanced countries. It’s hard to imagine why this should be the case because such technologies for public health are massive and have positive spill over benefits.
Moving now to vaccines, I think the system is even more inefficient when one considers the fact that many companies across the world received significant subsidies for vaccines. Estimates range from about $100 billion and in some cases the entire cost; Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines that were paid for by a public set of money. Such is the case for having patent rights to allow for innovation completely disappears.
Now the debate has moved, that it is not actually IP which is the restriction, it’s the ability to produce and manufacturing capacity. But remember eight months ago that did not exist in developed economies. People like the Moderna chief chemist said it takes about three to four months to actually set up these factories. What we should’ve had was a massive transfer in technology to places that could actually do this, completely open access to technology of all sorts, and ramping up production on a sort of global war scale. That has not happened and is it’s still not happening because of these limitations and unfortunately despite India and South Africa making the case in the WTO and despite some better noises from the Biden administration we’re really not seeing much movement.” — Arjun Jayadev