Pune’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine factory, has helped fill massive orders for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine CoviShield in Europe and the US. But while rich nations with just 16% of the world’s population have gotten roughly 47% of the 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine shots administered, poor nations have gotten just 0.2% of the shots.
The founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s wealthiest men, Bill Gates, has dismissed the growing movement to waive intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines, which would allow poorer nations to get their lists of ingredients and produce their own versions. Instead, they will have to wait in line until wealthier nations protect themselves and pass them the scraps.
In an interview with the UK’s Sky News on Sunday, Gates flatly replied “no” when asked if he thought vaccine recipes should be shared.
“There’s only so many vaccine factories in the world and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines. And so moving something that had never been done – moving a vaccine, say, from a J&J [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India – it’s novel – it’s only because of our grants and expertise that that can happen at all.”
Gates continued, saying intellectual property wasn’t “the thing holding things back,” saying instead the problem was a bottleneck in the factories themselves.
His comments come amid a push by more than 80 nations, led by India and South Africa, to convince the World Trade Organization to waive its Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement, a deal that since 1995 has severely inhibited the ability of Third World nations to make generic versions of drugs, forcing them to buy from the First World at prices that often high even for people in the US or Europe.