The United States has declared its support for World Trade Organization proposals to temporarily lift intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines. In a written statement, U.S. trade representative Katherine Tai said that “this is a global health crisis” and that “the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures”. The U.S. stance has not been welcomed by pharmaceutical companies who claim it will not ease supply bottlenecks and only serve to stifle innovation.
Proponents of the patent waiver have pointed out that vaccine manufacturers have been dependent on huge amounts of public funding to develop their shots and that their success should be shared with developing countries. According to data from the Knowledge Portal on Innovation and Access to Medicines, $5.9 billion in R&D investment was tracked up to March 2021, 98.1 percent of which was from public funding.
The United States and Germany are the top sources for R&D investment, putting some $2 billion and $1.5 billion into development, respectively. The United Kingdom comes third on the funding list with just over $500 million while the EU has invested around $327 million. Even though the lion’s share of investment in the U.S. used public funding, some $2.17 billion, at least $62 million of philanthropy dollars have also been donated.
This chart shows the top sources of Covid-19 vaccine funding as of March 2021 (in U.S. dollars).
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