“The lifting of patents on vaccines would not solve the challenge of mass production and would threaten innovation in the future”

Tribune. We understand the impatience caused by the gradual arrival of Covid-19 vaccine deliveries. And we want, like everyone, to put an end to this pandemic. We believe that the response must be comprehensive and united, as quickly as possible. We must not forget the exceptional achievement of developing vaccines in one year.

However, the lifting of patents on vaccines would not make it possible to speed up and increase their production to make them available to all humanity more quickly. To think so would be to deny the complexity of developing these vaccines; worse still, it would disavow the usefulness of the intellectual property regulatory framework.

Admittedly, national law provides for the existence of an ex officio license in the intellectual property code. The article is worded as follows: “If the public interest so requires and in the absence of an amicable agreement with the patent holder, the Minister responsible for industrial property may (…) submit by decree to the ex officio license system (…) any patent. “ But France has never used it. And for good reason, solutions have always been found. In the case of Covid vaccines, this would mean that pharmaceutical companies refuse to make their vaccines available. This is of course not the case.

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Pharmaceutical companies, like all involved for a year in this race against the virus, are increasing the number of unprecedented collaborations (in particular with the multiplication of voluntary licenses) to meet the needs in terms of research, production but also access to vaccines for populations.

Too innovative technologies

As of February 2021, there were over 230 manufacturing and production agreements worldwide. Laboratories are also participating in the initiative Covax, launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable access to vaccines in the poorest countries.

The debate is not there, however. Manufacturing billions of doses for people around the world without ever compromising the quality or safety of vaccines is an unprecedented challenge. These are complex biological products to develop and the available production tools are already fully mobilized.

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The technologies are too innovative to be transferred simply from one site to another and the real obstacles – technological and logistical – would not be lifted by automatic licenses. Each vaccination site requires highly qualified technicians and state-of-the-art equipment (bioreactors, centrifuges, cold rooms, etc.) which meet high regulatory standards of safety and performance.

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