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Call for future Covid-19 vaccine to be in the public domain

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, the search for 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, whether in urban areas or rural, to both men and women, living in rich or poor countries.

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The effectiveness of a vaccination campaign is based on its universality. Governments must make it available free of charge. Only people who want special services can pay for these services and for the vaccine.

To be accessible to all, vaccines must be patent-free. They must be in the public domain. This will allow governments, foundations, charities, philanthropists and social and supportive enterprises (i.e. enterprises created to solve people’s problems without profiting from it) to produce and / or distribute it worldwide.

Expensive research

Finding a new vaccine is a long process (estimated at 18 months in the case of the current pandemic, which is an all-time speed record). This research is costly. Many commercial research laboratories dedicated to this research expect a high return on investment. We must find a way that allows a fair return on investment in exchange for putting it in the public domain. The most important thing is to put the result in the public domain, in order to make it available to be produced by anyone in accordance with international regulatory processes.

Governments, or a group of governments or foundations, philanthropists, international organizations like WHO, with private and public support, can provide funding.

But the crucial ethical question that must be resolved is that of determining the amount of benefits that a laboratory or an inventor can afford for a life-saving drug needed by everyone on the planet.

At the same time, we must also consider the honor and worldwide recognition that we give to the inventor or inventors and to laboratories that put this discovery in the public domain unconditionally, without financial compensation or at cost price.

Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine

In this context, precedents can inspire us. This is the story 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 the vaccine, it received funding from a Foundation founded by President Roosevelt, with donations from millions of Americans. Not to mention the participation of 1.4 million children on whom the vaccine has been tested.

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Researchers developing therapeutic innovations like 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 didn’t ask for royalties. The only thing that interested him was to spread the vaccine as widely as possible, as quickly as possible.

Now is the right time to set a global standard where we are not blinded by money, forgetting the lives of billions of people.

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