Be it resolved: To fight this pandemic and the next, vaccines should be free to everyone the world over

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We are into the fourth month of the largest global vaccination programme in history with over 335 million COVID-19 jabs administered in 108 countries. Critics of the vaccine rollout are deeply concerned about the inequitable distribution of the life saving inoculations. They say the vast majority of vaccinations have taken place in wealthy countries with inoculation rates dramatically lower in Asia and almost non-existent in Africa. They argue that we are experiencing an artificially created shortage and the culprit is intellectual property protection rights that give a small number of pharmaceuticals control over the global manufacturing and supply. The solution is a simple one: remove World Trade Organization intellectual property rights for the duration of the COVID crisis so that countries can manufacture their own vaccine supplies and save possibly hundreds of thousands of lives. Proponents of intellectual property protections argue that this would be disruptive and undermine future investment in innovation, and the hard work that go into producing effective treatments for deadly diseases. Removing these protections will undermine future drug development needed to prepare for future pandemics while doing nothing to contribute to the unprecedented challenge of how to safely manufacture billions of doses in a short period of time. Vaccine production requires knowhow and trained employees to run hugely complex and highly regulated manufacturing processes. Rather than suspend COVID-19 vaccine patents, the answer to an equitable vaccine roll out lies in international collaboration to scale up manufacturing and in the COVAX public private sector partnership that works to ensure that everyone, regardless of wealth, has access to safe and effective vaccines.

Arguing for the motion is Dean Baker, Senior Economist & Co-Founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is the author of the blog ‘Beat The Press’ and How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer.

Arguing against the motion is Thomas B. Cueni, Director General at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations. He’s also the biopharmaceutical industry representative to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, the global partnership that aims to accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 treatments.

Sources: Blooomberg Quick Take, The Telegraph, France 24, Democracy Now, SABC News, Atlantic Council, KTN News, News4Jax, Al Jazeera English, BBC News

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112 episodes