Liberty Discussion on “Want Vaccines fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights”

On December 27, 2020, liberty discussion session for December was held on the article titled “Want Vaccines fast? Suspend Intellectual Property Rights” co-authored by Achal Prabhala, Arjun Jayadev and Dean Baker in New York Times.

The discussion began by participants expressing how intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical industry is significant and needs to be protected given the fact that pharmaceutical companies spend substantial amounts of money, time, and effort in research & development before launching a breakthrough vaccine. Hence, suspending property rights at moments as now shall directly hamper the profit model or even the sustainability of the global pharmaceutical industry even at the cost of innovations in medicine and health science. However, given the fact that the government with taxpayers’ money had substantially funded vaccine development programs that have also lately shown phenomenal effectiveness, other participants believed that the vaccine for coronavirus needs to be treated as a public good.

Regardless, while such vaccines could be a public good for the taxpayers from rich countries who could have funded the vaccine development programs, it does not yet seem to solve problems regarding access and affordability of vaccines for people of poorer countries. In such a context, participants alleged that the international agencies such as the World Health Organization for not securing access to vaccines across the world despite episodes of pandemic and influenza being around for more than a century.

As such, one participant of the discussion smartly invited such concerned health organizations and agencies to think beyond suspending intellectual property rights for vaccines and learn from globalization techniques as franchising and licensing strategies that can be deployed to market and distribute vaccines across the world. Such globalization strategies can be easily learned from the soft drinks and fast-food industry whereby Coca Cola and Pepsi Co. have been historically leveraging on the licensing strategy to market soft drinks at every corner of the world, while fast-food giants as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) have successfully leveraged on the franchise strategy to expand its chain across the globe. At the end of the discussion, participants concluded that it is safe to note that knowledge integration with multinational corporations regarding distribution and marketing strategies of products can help ensure timely delivery of vaccines for coronavirus across the world.