A group of developing countries is pushing to limit patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines being tested by some of the largest pharmaceutical companies, as reported Morningstar on Thursday.
South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Pakistan and others claim they will not be able to afford to protect their people without lower-cost, generic alternatives to the vaccines now being tested by companies such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has said calls to sidestep patent protections for COVID-19 vaccine are "nonsense" and "dangerous."
At the United Nations General Assembly this month, the World Health Organization plans to provide operational details of a voluntary patents pool where COVID-19 technology can be shared, and drugmakers would be paid a royalty for the use of their vaccine, but it would be well below what they could earn otherwise.
"If you don't protect IP, then essentially there's no incentive for anybody to innovate," AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has said, while GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley questioned whether patent protections really hamper the ability of developing countries to obtain vaccines.
AstraZeneca and Novavax have licensed 1 billion doses each of their vaccines produced for poorer countries by the Serum Institute of India, with John Trizzino, senior vice president at Novavax, noting that "we're doing our part. We're approaching this globally; we're not approaching this as European-centric or US-centric."