Healthcare is and has always been vital for humanity. Progress, technological evolution and every change in a society depend on how well their individuals preserve and maintain their health. No wonder health is known to be the first priority to achieve. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that. In the end, it seems that no matter how much money or properties you possess, the fight between every human immune system and COVID-19, and the reality it obliges us to face when we suffer from the disease, is far and beyond from that concept of power and success.
Since 2019, the world has focused its attention on how to face the COVID-19 pandemic. This attention has derived in making titanic technological and innovation efforts, as well as R+D strategics as fast as it was possible to synthetize either vaccines or pharmaceutical compounds that helped human beings to defend themselves against this viral disease. This race to obtain a safe an effective compound to combat the COVID-19 disease has posed many challenges. Research lines had been directed to synthesize a new medicament, to find a new use of known medicaments, or to generate a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Today, after different programs have successfully obtained a vaccine, new challenges emerged. Many countries are suffering of second and third viral outbreaks, the number of cases in many countries are still increasing, as well as the number of casualties. Therefore, the vaccine rollout, that is, the capability to synthesize the vaccine in sufficient amounts to be administered to the world population, and then, how to distribute it so the total population of a country is vaccinated, poses a very difficult challenge to transcend. The COVAX Pillar, the ACT Accelerator promoted by the WHO, rose as an alternative to equally distribute the vaccines to countries without the capability of either producing their own vaccine or to acquire it. However, the program has worked very slowly in comparison to global needs, particularly for the most vulnerable economies. Very successful agreements between countries have contributed to palliate the distribution demands, but the response is, as well, very slow because of either technical capabilities or low raw material resources which are scarce all over the world. Other alternative is that countries use their own R+D structure and resources to produce their own vaccine, with its own technology, but to achieve this has proven to be a very challenging and slow process for countries with less effective technological or research capabilities. According to data from the Oxford University’s “Our World in Data” database1 , until May 11th , 2021, almost an 8.56% of the total World population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. From this percentage, the United States has vaccinated 45.7% of its population, Canada has vaccinated 39.72%; the European Union has vaccinated 28.81% and the European Countries a 24.86%. South America has vaccinated a 13.51%, Mexico 11%; Asia 4.72%, Oceania 1.56% and Africa 1.14% of their population.
While these critical issues are to deal with, different countries have been, since day one of the pandemic, making a proposal that owners of the COVID-19 vaccines waive their IP rights in order that countries with less economical possibilities would have a faster and more affordable way to have access to vaccination.
Is it really enough that owners waive their IP rights of the COVID-19 vaccines in favor of the access to the COVID-19 vaccines technology? Arguments on the side of preserving the innovation capabilities and keep promoting investments on R+D strategies stand their position.
At this point of the pandemic, granting the countries that demand it the access to the vaccines’ technologies could affect more than to help them. These countries would have to acquire the expertise and transfer the technology necessary to synthesize the vaccine. Moreover, they would have to obtain the necessary materials, instruments, equipment and restructure their supply and production chains, in order to implement the strategy and the logistics to manufacture the vaccine and distribute it. At the moment these actions could result really expensive in ways additional to economic investments, and not favorable to achieve the purpose of having a faster or a cheaper access to the vaccine. The scheme of developing agreements with the owners of the vaccines’ IP rights seem still the best way to go.
For instance, Mexico has made great efforts to procure supply of the vaccine for its population. It has collaborated with the COVAX organization and has made some agreements with Argentina, which in turn has made an agreement with Astra Zeneca labs to produce the vaccine and then export it to the continent. However, due to the scarcity of the raw material necessary to bottle the vaccine, the process of producing 22.5 million of doses has been delayed. As we can see, there are other powerful circumstances beyond releasing the access to the technologies, that are delaying the process of vaccination in the world. Among other agreements that Mexico has achieved, there is the agreement with Russia to begin manufacturing and bottling the Sputnik V vaccine, in order to obtain 24 million doses of this vaccine. The production is contemplated to start after the month of May 2021. Mexico will also be participating in the Phase 3 of the “Walvax” Chinese project, which would also start at the end of May 2021 provided COFEPRIS approves the tests.
Up to this date, the administered doses in Mexico of the COVID-19 vaccine ascend to 21.30 million doses between fully vaccinated individuals – the ones who have received the two doses – and individuals who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.2 As another alternative, there are many R+D efforts in Mexico to produce its own vaccine. The most advanced project until today is the “Patria” vaccine project, a product of a license agreement between Mexico and the United States, which is in Phase 1 of the clinical trial. Guatemala, Spain and other countries in South America will take part in Phase 3. The whole phases of the vaccine trial are expected to be completed at the end of 2022. Efforts are being made so this vaccine will sum to the vaccination of all the population in Mexico.
This is a global pandemic that has taught us the value of united effort. It has also reminded us that things in nature have a process and most of all, it has reminded us of very important values in human society that are very strategic. Patience, focused attention and unhesitating action in our work to achieve our goals.