President Biden’s plan to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccine makers amounts to “theft,” charges former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“At the heart of all socialism is theft,” he told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. … “When you steal from the productive people, they either quit being productive or they move.”
Gingrich called it “a gigantic gift to the Chinese communists.”
“They are the people who will have the biggest production facilities; they will do the most to produce it. They’re thrilled,” he said.
“Now they don’t have to steal it. It’s being given to them by Biden.”
In addition, Gingrich said, the move will discourage investment.
“This will weaken the investment in new drugs worldwide and will cost lives,” he said.
Bartiromo noted the Wall Street Journal called it “Biden’s vaccine patent theft.”
Supporters of the move insist that breaking the patents is necessary to expand global access to vaccines.
That’s false, Bartimromo insisted, arguing that World Health Organization rules already allow low-income countries to license patents during emergencies, though they must negotiate an agreement with developers.
“So, we’re supposed to just forget about all the money and innovation that went into this? Give it all away.”
See Gingrich’s remarks
On Wednesday, amid mounting pressure from Democrats and other countries, the president’s top trade negotiator, Katherine Tai, announced the move.
She said in a statement “the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.”
Shares in vaccine makers Moderna and Novavax dropped several percentage points in trading Wednesday and Pfizer fell slightly.
On Twitter, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called Biden’s move a “MONUMENTAL MOMENT IN THE FIGHT AGAINST #COVID19” on Twitter.
He said it reflected “the wisdom and moral leadership of the United States.”
But the industry’s biggest lobby group warned it would undermine the companies’ response to the pandemic and compromise safety, Reuters reported.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said such a patent waiver “amounts to the expropriation of the property of the pharmaceutical companies whose innovation and financial investments made the development of COVID-19 vaccines possible in the first place.”
Critics of the waiver also argue that producing COVID-19 vaccines is complex. Setting up production at new facilities would divert resources from efforts to boost production at existing sites, they argue.
Supporters of the waiver argue the waiver would be temporary, contending the pharmaceutical companies would suffer only minor losses. And they still would be able to sell any shots that that might be required in coming years.
The statement Wednesday by the White House, Reuters said, paved the way for possibly months of negotiations with the WTO over a waiver plan. WTO decisions require a consensus of all 164 members.
‘Virtue signaling to the anti-market left’
Meanwhile, Alex Tabarrok, an economics professor at George Mason University, contends patents are not the problem.
The Biden administration’s announcement, he said, “is virtue signaling to the anti-market left and will do little to nothing to increase supply.”
Tabarrok — who teaches monetary theory, financial economics and welfare economics — argued that all of the vaccine manufacturers are trying to increase supply as quickly as possible.
“Billions of doses are being produced – more than ever before in the history of the world,” he said. “Licenses are widely available.”
Among the many who have made their licenses available abroad are AstraZeneca, in deals in India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, China and South Africa. And Johnson & Johnson has agreements with firms in Spain, South Africa and France.
Increasing supply will require spending, he contends, noting
Trump’s Operation Warp Speed spent about $15 billion.
“Bottom line is that producing more takes real resources not waving magic patent wands.”
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