‘Vaccine Monopoly’: US and Europe Need To Resolve Imbalance Problem

One hundred seventy-five world-renowned figures, including former heads of government and Nobel Prize winners, recently sent a joint letter to U.S. President Joe Biden asking him to temporarily suspend patent rights on the COVID-19 vaccine. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Nobel Prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz wrote, “Tentative suspension of patent rights is indispensable to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccine technology must be shared.”

COVID-19 has left the world in pain, but the distribution of vaccines, which is a “game-changer,” is biased toward developed countries. Ten countries account for 75% of the world’s vaccinations, and many have yet to begin vaccination. Despite this situation, developed countries are competing to hoard vaccines. The European Union, which has 50 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, is pursuing a contract to supply an additional 1.8 billion doses by 2023, and the U.S., which has 600 million doses, is also planning to keep the vaccine.

It is not an easy decision to temporarily suspend the patent rights of governments and multinational pharmaceutical companies that invested large amounts of money. However, no amount of money can be prioritized over human health in the face of an infectious disease that has killed 3 million people in the past year. It is also clear that it is difficult to revive the global economy when countries are vulnerable to the virus. Studies estimate that the economic damage high-income countries suffer by not supplying vaccines to low-income countries is more than four times higher than the cost of evenly distributing vaccines to low-income countries. Developed countries should not forget that the courage to protect the health and well-being of mankind as a whole is a source of moral and ethical leadership.

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