Wealthy countries should not be pushing intellectual property rights on the COVID-19 vaccine

Please note: This staff editorial reflects the views of the large majority of The Alestle staff, not of each individual staff member.

Although three COVID-19 vaccines have been identified with sufficient results, the pharmaceutical monopoly on trade-related intellectual property rights will guarantee only the world’s richest will have access to the vaccine. Amid a global pandemic, trade-related intellectual property rights should be suspended indefinitely.

In October, South Africa and India submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization which would restrict member countries from implementing patents and institutionalizing a pharmaceutical monopoly on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Among other wealthy countries, the United States, the European Union and Britain expressed their opposition to the proposal in the WTO meeting on Friday. In order to pass a proposal, all 164 countries must reach a consensus — otherwise, the decision will dissolve into a vote.

The countries in opposition claim the suspension of intellectual property rights would undermine the collaborative efforts to fight the global pandemic. However, we at The Alestle believe there is nothing collaborative about singular countries having ultimate control of who receives the vaccines and in what quantities.

Positive results from U.S. pharmaceutical companies during COVID-19 trials have only further affirmed the pressing importance of the proposal in protecting the interests of poor countries.

Wealthy countries shouldn’t act as dictators over global health, only securing vaccines for their own people while the rest of the world suffers.

The three vaccines found to have positive results include AstraZeneca’s AZD12222, Moderna’s mRNA-1273 and Pfizer and BioNTech’s BNT162b2. Moderna is based in the United States, as is Pfizer, Inc., a German-founded company. AstraZeneca is based in the United Kingdom.

With the three most successful vaccines originating from two of the wealthy countries in strong opposition to the proposal, the motives behind the opposition are questionable.

A poor life should be regarded as no less valuable than a rich life, but time and time again, wealthy countries expose their greed and nationalistic interests.

We all have an equal right to life, regardless of the country we were born into. Wealthy countries should stop putting profit over public health and should call a ceasefire in the pharmaceutical monopoly war over the COVID-19 vaccine.

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