Waiving vaccine patents and coronavirus genome data disputes

Noah Baker and Amy Maxmen discuss inequities in vaccine distribution and the sharing of coronavirus genome data.

In surprise news this week, the US government announced its support for waiving patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, in an effort to boost supplies around the world.

As fewer than 1% of people living in low-income countries have received COVID-19 vaccines, it is hoped that this move is a major step towards addressing this inequity by allowing manufacturers to legally produce generic versions of vaccines. We discuss the next steps that need to be taken to make this a reality, and why there is opposition to the plan.

Also on the podcast, we look at another aspect of coronavirus inequity: the sharing of genomic data.

Around the world, researchers are racing to upload SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences to repositories, to help in the fight against the pandemic. One popular data repository, GISAID, requires users to sign in and acknowledge those whose data they analyse.

Although a growing faction of scientists from wealthy nations are calling for the removal of gatekeeping requirements, scientists in the global south are pushing back, arguing that this will deprive them of credit and chances to participate in big-data analyses.

News: In shock move, US backs waiving patents on COVID vaccines

News: Why some researchers oppose unrestricted sharing of coronavirus genome data

News: Scientists call for fully open sharing of coronavirus genome data

Science: Coronavirus sequence trove sparks frustration

New York Times: Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid Vaccine

Washington Post: Poor countries may not be vaccinated until 2024. Here’s how to prevent that.

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