Corona vaccines without a license ?: Berlin blocks patent suspension

Corona vaccines without a license?
Berlin blocks patent suspension

The US is surprising with the proposal to have corona vaccines temporarily produced without license fees. However, the federal government is opposing this. The argument: The “limiting factor” is production capacities, not patents.

After the advance from the USA in the direction of a possible release of the patents on corona vaccines, the federal government emphasized the need for patent protection. “The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future,” said a government spokeswoman. The US proposal to revoke patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines has “significant implications for vaccine production as a whole”.

“The limiting factors in the manufacture of vaccines are the production capacities and the high quality standards, not the patents,” the German government said. “We are working in many ways on how we can improve production capacities within Germany and within the European Union, but also worldwide.” The companies affected are also doing this with great commitment.

The federal government stands behind the goal of a worldwide supply of Covid-19 vaccines, emphasized the government spokeswoman at the same time. For example, Germany supported the Covax initiative with around one billion euros with the aim of ensuring that as many people in the world as possible had access to vaccines.

Previously, there had already been critical voices from the Union parliamentary group about the suspension of the patents. “Patent protection makes sense,” said parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus to the broadcaster “Welt”. At the same time, however, he emphasized that one approach taken by US President Joe Biden was “absolutely correct”: It was necessary to consider how cheap the vaccine could be in emerging countries. “It is of no use if we vaccinate ourselves freely in Germany and the rest of the world is not vaccinated.”

The pharmaceutical industry is in a storm

The US government signaled on Wednesday that it would support a temporary suspension of patent protection for corona vaccines in order to be able to ramp up vaccine production internationally. Then manufacturers around the world could produce the vaccines without having to pay royalties to Biontech / Pfizer, Moderna and other manufacturers. However, the 164 member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) would have to agree that international copyright regulations would be suspended. In addition, it is unlikely that it will be possible to simply copy the complex recipes for the new vaccines without the support of the pharmaceutical companies.

The United Nations, the World Health Organization, countries in Africa, but also European states such as France and Russia welcomed the move by the USA. The European Union reacted cautiously: “The European Union is ready to discuss every proposal that addresses this crisis effectively and pragmatically,” said Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen. Countries with their own production would have to export. “Europe is the only democratic region in the world that allows exports on a large scale,” said von der Leyen – a swipe at the USA, which has not yet exported.

German pharmaceutical companies rejected the proposal. The Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers announced that nobody could get up a production line in less than six months. “And in the next year the current manufacturers will already be producing more vaccine doses than the world population needs according to the current state of planning,” said Association President Han Steutel. The Association of US Pharmaceutical Companies (PhRMA) warned that without patents it could lead to the spread of adulterated vaccinations. And the Association of the US Biotech Industry (Bio) saw the danger that other countries could outperform the US with its leading role in biotechnology today.

The German vaccine manufacturers Curevac and Biontech also spoke out against the US proposal. “The manufacturing process of mRNA is a complex process that has been developed over more than a decade,” announced Biontech in Mainz. Experienced personnel and raw materials are required that have to be approved for use. If any of the requirements are not met, the quality, safety and effectiveness of the vaccine cannot be guaranteed by either the manufacturer or the developer. “This could endanger the health of the vaccinated.”