The shortfall in global COVID-19 vaccine production could be closed if manufacturers around the world were granted access to the necessary technology and knowledge. Da Project Syndacate.
The only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is to immunize enough people worldwide. The slogan “no one is safe until we are all safe” captures the epidemiological reality we face. Outbreaks anywhere could spawn a SARS-CoV-2 variant that is resistant to vaccines, forcing us all back into some form of lockdown. Given the emergence of worrisome new mutations in India, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, this is no mere theoretical threat.
Worse, vaccine production is currently nowhere close to delivering the 10-15 billion doses needed to stop the spread of the virus. By the end of April, only 1.2 billion doses had been produced worldwide. At this rate, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries will remain unimmunized at least until 2023.
It is thus big news that US President Joe Biden’s administration has announced it will join the 100 other countries seeking a COVID-19 emergency waiver of the World Trade Organization intellectual-property (IP) rules that have been enabling vaccine monopolization. Timely negotiations of a WTO agreement temporarily removing these barriers would create the legal certainty governments and manufacturers around the world need to scale up production of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.