Health over profit: why pharma companies should share their vaccine patents


A lot of tax money goes into researching covid vaccines, but the profits are only cashed in by the pharma industry. For the sake of profit, pharmaceutical companies keep their patents under wraps, which prevents the production of enough vaccine. In response to this, international health experts are demanding: In times of crisis, states must not allow themselves to be mucked around by corporations. The pharma industry needs to make its patents public. This would enable manufacturers around the world to produce vaccines faster and in greater quantities.

Corona vaccinations are set to defeat the pandemic and finally allow a return to normal life. Health experts and politicians agree on this. Agreement between these groups ends when it comes to taking responsibility for the current vaccination disaster, which has led to supply problems for the AstraZeneca vaccine in the European Union.

Pharmaceutical companies should share knowledge to allow multiple manufacturers to produce Covid vaccines

While politicians blame each other, international health experts have made a little-noticed but simple proposal in a report on the German television station NDR: pharmaceutical companies should share the knowledge and patents for producing their Covid vaccines with others – then a lot more vaccine could be produced at a faster rate. After all, according to the experts, profit interests should not be allowed to stand in the way of effective healthcare.

The prize of Covid vaccinations

The rapid development of Covid vaccines was not only an outstanding achievement of science, it was a project that relied on a lot of tax money. Governments around the world paid pharmaceutical companies vast amounts of money. They funded the vaccine research – and now have to pay a second time: Ordering vaccine doses costs billions.

How much is paid to the pharmaceutical giants is being kept secret. There are only assumptions. They range, depending on the manufacturer, from 1.78€ to 14.84€ per dose. In any case, one thing is certain: The Covid vaccinations are expensive – and are therefore also a once in a lifetime business opportunity for the pharmaceutical companies.

South Africa reportedly pays two and a half times more than EU countries for a vaccine dose as they did not contribute toward research and development. With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that AstraZeneca supplied South Africa completely, while European countries have to reckon with deficits.

Covid vaccine: profits only only seen by pharma companies

A lot of public research money has gone into the development of the Covid vaccines. International health experts from organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Amnesty International are demanding that pharmaceutical companies should now share their patents. This would allow several manufacturers around the world to start production and produce more Covid vaccine doses at a faster pace. Passing on patents is absolutely justified in an exceptional situation such as a pandemic. The fact that governments pay huge sums to private companies, without any strings attached, is a major policy failure.

“This is an emergency where governments have subsidized every step of the pharmaceutical companies. From research and development to who ends up buying. The corporations took only a small risk. And that risk almost disappeared as the pandemic spread,” says Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre. Vaccination technologies should therefore be made available as a public good so that “everyone in the world benefits.”

Profit before health: Pharma companies refuse to share patents

The World Health Organization (WHO) called on pharmaceutical companies to share their data and patents back in May 2020. But to this day, not a single company has released its rights. This is probably due to the rigorous profit interests of the pharmaceutical companies. Those who share patents for the Covid vaccine will lose a part of their profits. But there are already solutions to this problem. For example, a company that releases its patents could receive a share of the sales if another company uses the patented production process.

Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical companies are keeping their research results a well-guarded secret. They are trying to make as much money as possible from the Covid-19 pandemic. The governments are chasing after the private companies with billions of euros instead of holding them accountable. Profit interests seem to be more powerful than the health interests of the people.

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