As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the globe, research into finding an effective vaccine continues, both in the pharmaceutical industry and in public research.
Indeed, everyone converges on the idea that ultimately, the only way to definitively eradicate the pandemic is to have a vaccine that can be administered to all the inhabitants of the planet, urban or rural, men or women, living in rich or poor countries.
The effectiveness of a vaccination campaign is based on its universality. Governments should make it available free of cost. Only the people who want special service delivery they can pay for the services and the vaccine.
To make available to all, vaccines should be made free from any patent. It should be in public domain. This will allow governments, foundations, charity organizations, philanthropist individuals and social businesses (that is, businesses which are created to solve people’s problems without taking any personal profit out of it) to come forward to produce and/or distribute this all over the world.
The search for a new vaccine is a long process (stipulated time is about 18 months in the case of the current pandemic, which would be an absolute speed record). This research is costly. Many commercial research laboratories who are engaged in this research will be expecting a high return on their investment. We need to work out formula what would be fair level of this return in exchange of putting the formula in the public domain. The most important thing is to put the result in the public domain, making it available to be produced by anybody under strict international regulatory supervision.
Individual government, or a group of governments , or foundation/s, individual philanthropist/s, global organization, like WHO, with private and public support, may come forward to finance it.
But the ethical question of great importance that is needed to be resolved is how much profit should a laboratory or an inventor be entitled to for a life-saving drug needed by all people all over the world.
At the same time we should also consider what global honour and recognition we give to the inventor/s and laboratories who put this in public domain unconditionally with no financial charge, or at cost.
In this context a precedent may inspire us. It is the history of the polio vaccine. In the 1950s, polio was a terrible disease, also caused by a virus, which affected children (approximately 20,000 cases per year), causing lifelong paralysis. Jonas Salk (1914-1995) an
American biologist invented the first polio vaccine. To develop this vaccine, he received a grant from a Foundation founded by President Roosevelt with donations from millions of Americans. For achievement of his success he credited the participation of 1.4 million children on whom the vaccine was tested.
Researchers developing therapeutic innovations such as vaccines need everyone's cooperation. A vaccine can only work if inoculations are carried out on a large scale.
Salk never patented his invention. He did not demand any royalties from it. All he was interested in was to disseminate the vaccine as widely as possible, as fast as possible.
This is a good time to set a norm for the world so that we do not get blinded by money and forget lives of billions of people.
Catherine Belzung, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of Tours.
Antonine Nicoglou, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the University of Tours.
Luigino Bruni, Professor à l’Université LUMSA, Rome.
Muhammad Yunus, Professor, Nobel Prize of Peace 2006, Bangladesh.