Vaccines and patent protection

Sir, – I refer to two letters (October 5th andSeptember 30th) by Amnesty's Colm O'Gorman and representatives of Doctors for Vaccine Equity, respectively, in relation to the proposal to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

In both cases, the writers miss the point about the complexity of vaccines manufacturing, suggesting that it is a “plug-and-play model” that does not need specialised technology, skills, sites and know-how.

Covid-19 vaccines manufacturing has surged because vaccines-makers, as well as investing in their own sites, voluntarily formed hundreds of partnerships with expert manufacturers globally. The notion that there are lots of underutilised, suitable Covid-19 vaccines manufacturing sites idle around the world is nonsense.

But so much of the world’s population is not getting vaccinated fast enough. That is why our industry has urged developed countries to share more of their surplus Covid-19 vaccine doses faster with less economically advanced countries.


The writers downplay the importance of intellectual property in the development of new medicines and vaccines. Yet the world has thousands of new medicines in development because inventions are protected by patents. These legal safeguards attract investment; without investment, new medicines development would slow and medical needs would go unmet.

Almost half of global new treatments originate in the US, while a quarter start in Europe. The EU’s recently published pharmaceutical and industrial strategies will be important shapers of the innovation landscape in the next decade. Ireland should ensure it adopts an influential, pro-innovation stance.

Our industry has always acknowledged the role of public funding in accelerating the search for safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

Sadly, the writers fail to acknowledge the role of biopharmaceutical innovators in generating safe and effective vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 in record time. It took a global health emergency to draw the best of human ingenuity and collaboration in finding a way through.

It would be a shame if these partnership lessons were lost and we instead sided with simplistic narratives that lack practical application. – Yours, etc,


Director of Communications and Advocacy,

Irish Pharmaceutical

Healthcare Association,

Dublin 2.