MUMBAI: Waiving of intellectual property (IP) rights will neither lead to higher production of vaccines or their increased deployment to fight Covid, since that is not the barrier to ensure availability of vaccines in India, according to the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers (OPPI), a body representing pharma MNCs. It warned that a waiver of patents could impact patient safety by opening doors for counterfeit vaccines to enter the supply chain.
The statement follows a drastic turnaround of the US recently supporting a waiver of IP on Covid vaccines. India and South Africa are engaged jointly at the World Trade Organization for a patient waiver submitted in October last year for all Covid medical tools. Recently, faced with crucial vaccines shortages and key Covid drugs, there has been demand from patent and health activists to suspend patents on them, to improve their accessibility and affordability.
“We are cognisant that with the rising Covid cases in India and in other developing nations, there is an urgency to rapidly produce greater quantities of the Covid vaccine. Vaccine manufacturing is a complex process and scaling up capacities involves the transfer of critical knowhow. We believe this can only be optimally achieved when vaccine manufacturers are able to scale up capacities at their production sites and/or through licensing agreements with other manufacturers, along with supply agreements with governments to make required quantities deployed rapidly and reliably,” it said in a statement.
Further, there is also a risk of diverting precious raw materials and ingredients necessary to produce the vaccines from high-quality manufacturers to inexperienced ones, further disrupting the existing manufacturing capacity. It may also stifle further investment in R&D that are instrumental in delivering new vaccines and treatments against new virus variants, it added.
OPPI said it is fully committed to developing newer and improved treatment options to help respond to the pandemic, ensuring that innovative therapies are available equitably and expeditiously. OPPI said it has “engaged in technology transfers in a series of vaccines and therapies”, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and J&J.