By Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer
“The People’s Vaccine Alliance, supported by organizations including Oxfam, Public Citizen and UNAIDS, is lobbying wealthy nations and the WTO not only to support waivers, but also to set up the means for low- and middle-income countries to provide vaccines at cost or for free. The alliance argues that shared knowledge regarding the vaccines should be “freely available to everyone everywhere” as a global common good. The WTO has agreed to put the discussion of waivers for Covid vaccines on an accelerated timeline. That means instead of the deliberations over patent waivers grinding along for years, the WTO could make a ruling in a matter of months.”
“If the patent holders won’t share their expertise, there are other ways to provide generic vaccine makers with the necessary technology. The Biden Administration could invoke statutes that permit the president to force private companies to share information, such as the Defense Production Act (DPA), enacted during the Korean War to ensure the supply of war materials. According to Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, under the DPA the President could require vaccine makers to share their technology and provide training for personnel at generic companies.
In return, the vaccine manufacturers would be compensated for what they share, taking into account the funding they already received under Operation Warp Speed. The DPA also allows the Biden Administration to pay vaccine manufacturers to repurpose facilities and produce Covid vaccines. Public Citizen estimates that 14 facilities could produce 8 billion vaccines within a year to 18 months for $25 billion.”