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What’s yours is ours: waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines

Abstract

This paper gives an ethical argument for temporarily waiving intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines. It examines two proposals under discussion at the World Trade Organization (WTO): the India/South Africa proposal and the WTO Director General proposal. Section I explains the background leading up to the WTO debate. Section II rebuts ethical arguments for retaining current IP protections, which appeal to benefiting society by spurring innovation and protecting rightful ownership. It sets forth positive ethical arguments for a temporary waiver that appeal to standing in solidarity and holding companies accountable. After examining built-in exceptions to existing agreements and finding them inadequate, the paper replies to objections to a temporary waiver and concludes, in section III, that the ethical argument for temporarily waiving IP protection for COVID-19 vaccines is strong.

  • COVID-19
  • ethics
  • allocation of health care resources

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