Sen. Sanders to Vaccine Mfrs.: Help the World, Waive Your COVID Patent Rights Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
By Jim Thomas | Monday, 03 May 2021 07:53 PM
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, on Sunday called on drug companies to waive their intellectual property rights to their COVID-19 vaccines so that distribution can increase by allowing the vaccines to be manufactured abroad and resulting in expedient distribution, reported Business Insider.
"I think what we have got to say right now to the drug companies — when millions of lives are at stake around the world — yes, allow other countries to have these intellectual property rights so they can produce the vaccines that are desperately needed in poor countries," Sanders said during an appearance on NBC News' "Meet the Press."
"We have got to obviously make sure that every American gets vaccinated as quickly as possible," Sanders added, "not only do we have a moral responsibility to help the rest of the world, it's in our own self-interest. If this pandemic continues to spread in other countries, it's going to come back and bite us at one point or another."
Maintaining intellectual property rights is "morally objectionable" because "rich countries" maintain stockpiles of the shots, while those in "poor countries" cannot keep up, Sanders said on Sunday.
“The second thing we should do is … we should deal with this issue through the World Trade Organization of protecting the intellectual property rights of the drug companies," he told NBC News's Chuck Todd. “There is something morally objectionable about rich countries being able to get that vaccine, and yet millions and billions of people in poor countries are unable to afford it,” he said.
Sanders and nine Senate Democrats urged President Joe Biden last week to put his support behind a temporary patent waiver that would allow vaccines to be produced locally by other manufacturers, Reuters reported.
Pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, along with the US Chamber of Commerce have opposed a temporary patent waiver. The companies argue that allowing other manufacturers to produce their vaccines could lead to issues with safety, reported Business Insider.
In March, CEOs from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and a handful of other medical corporations wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to allow companies to retain intellectual property rights, as not doing so would lead to "confusion" and a "barrier to information sharing." Such a move "would not speed up production," the pharmaceutical giants argued.
"Intellectual property protections have been essential not only to speed the research and development of new treatments and vaccines, but also to facilitate sharing of technology and information to scale up vaccine manufacturing to meet global needs," the group of companies wrote at the time. "Eliminating those protections would undermine the global response to the pandemic, including ongoing effort to tackle new variants, create confusion that could potentially undermine public confidence in vaccine safety, and create a barrier to information sharing. Most importantly, eliminating protections would not speed up production," reported the Washington Examiner.
Biden, in his first congressional address Wednesday, appeared to share the liberal senator's vision.
"There’s no wall high enough to keep any virus out. And our own vaccine supply, as it grows to meet our needs, and we’re meeting them, will become an arsenal of vaccines for other countries, just as America was the arsenal of democracy for the world and in consequence, influenced the world," he said.
The United States has administered 243,463,471 vaccine doses of 312,508,205 that have been distributed, according to the CDC, reported the Washington Examiner.