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What’s yours is ours: waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines
  1. Nancy S Jecker1,2,
  2. Caesar A Atuire3,4
  1. 1Department of Bioethics & Humanities, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park, Gauteng, South Africa
  3. 3Department of Philosophy and Classics, University of Ghana, Accra, Accra, Ghana
  4. 4All Souls College, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nancy S Jecker, Department of Bioethics & Humanities, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA; nsjecker{at}uw.edu

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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Footnotes

  • Twitter @atuire

  • Contributors Each author contributed substantially to the conception and analysis of the work; drafting the work or revising it critically; final approval of the version to be published and is accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.