Anti-Covid-19 vaccines: laboratories against the suspension of their patents

Moderna pharmaceutical company CEO Stéphane Bancel in Washington on March 2, 2020, during a meeting with then-US President Donald Trump.

AP - Andrew Harnik

Text by: RFI Follow

4 min

Would lifting the patents on vaccines against Covid-19 amount to removing the obstacles in the fight against the pandemic?

States, NGOs but also Nobel Prize winners and former heads of state think so.

There are growing calls for the WTO to agree to suspend intellectual property rights, as requested by India and South Africa.

On the occasion of World Intellectual Property Day, this Monday, April 26, vaccine manufacturers say that depriving them of their patents will not change the face of the pandemic.


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Suspending the patents or forcing the technology transfer will not make it possible to produce a single dose of the anti-Covid 19 vaccine and may even have the opposite effect, the pharmaceutical companies have warned.

Today our teams are working 7 days a week to transfer technology with our partners,"

says Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna at the microphone of

Jérémie Lanche

our correspondent in Geneva.

 If I were to assign them to additional technology transfers, we would no longer be able to manufacture the billion doses that we plan to deliver this year.



In addition,

continues the French boss of Moderna,

we are already at the end of April.

There is a big increase in vaccine production right now.

We are already under pressure to supply ourselves.

So if there are more players asking for raw materials, it won't improve the situation.

If we [suspend intellectual property rights] now, it will have no impact on [vaccine count] in 2021. It will have an impact in 2022, but it will slow down our ability to increase our deliveries for this year


Shortage of ingredients for the manufacture of vaccines

According to Thomas Cueni, president of the International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry (IFPMA), quoted by AFP, 275 production agreements have already been concluded between laboratories, sometimes between rivals, to reach the goal of 10 billion by the end of 2021.

But the problem, he says, is not so much intellectual property as tariff barriers or the shortage of certain ingredients and tools that can bring production to a halt.

More than a hundred ingredients used in the manufacture of vaccines are difficult to obtain at present.


To read also: Anti-Covid-19 vaccines: international solidarity in slow motion

Vaccine inequality

For supporters of a temporary suspension of intellectual property rights, however, this is the best way to increase the number of production sites and finally put an end to the glaring vaccine inequality, which sees rich countries immunizing large proportions of their population. population when some poor countries have access to very few doses.

Again this Friday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated that vaccines " 

are a public good



is with

New Delhi

at the origin of the patent proposal to the WTO, and the two capitals now have the support of many countries, NGOs and personalities.

But the file is deadlocked.


Director General of the WTO

 is in favor of the development of “voluntary license” agreements for the manufacture of vaccines, as AstraZeneca has done with the Serum Institute of India in India. 

Let us fight together against vaccine nationalism and show that protecting intellectual property does not come at the expense of human lives

 ", pleaded Cyril Ramaphosa during an event organized by the WHO.

► To listen: To fight against the pandemic, suspend the intellectual property of vaccines


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  • Vaccines

  • Coronavirus

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