COVID-19 Vaccine Research, Development, Regulation and Access
26 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020 Last revised: 17 Nov 2020
Date Written: June 30, 2020
Will the regulation of a vaccine for COVID-19 be left in the hands of health standards administrators and research conventions or will an alliance of political and economic imperatives, chorused by a loud philanthropic/humanitarian cadre push both the roll-out and access challenges? This brief review identifies current developments in the vaccine race and reflects on the way that political, commercial, hegemonic and humanitarian realities will influence law’s regulatory relevance particularly through intellectual property regimes. The conclusion, because of this speculative moment, is watch this space.
The paper accepts the argument that substantive IP rights on their own are not to blame for adverse access outcomes, if they arise. But the need for compulsory licences and TRIPS exceptions reveals that a state cannot rely on the good intentions of successful manufacturers to promote social good when profits are potentially significant and market competition is constrained. The political and economic externalities pressuring more socially responsible commercial decision-making in the vaccine case are unique but even so law’s normative framework for justice and fairness is a counterbalance to private property exclusion when world health is at stake.
Keywords: COVID-19, vaccine, pandemic, regulation, intellectual property, health and safety, universal access
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