The COVID-19 Vaccine Race: Intellectual Property, Collaboration(s), Nationalism and Misinformation

22 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2020

See all articles by Ana Santos Rutschman

Ana Santos Rutschman

Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law

Date Written: July 21, 2020


Vaccines have long played a crucial role in the prevention, mitigation and eradication of infectious diseases. More than any other recent outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the phenomenon of the vaccine race to the forefront of personal, national and global preoccupations. This symposium contribution examines the early features and takeaways of the COVID-19 vaccine race in four parts. The essay begins by situating the ongoing vaccine race into contemporary frameworks for biopharmaceutical research and development (R&D). Part II examines the role of proprietary and nationalistic modes of vaccine production and distribution, with an emphasis on the effects of patents and pre-production agreements on distributive outcomes of the COVID-19 vaccine race. Part III then turns to emerging efforts to counter overly patent-dependent and nationalistic approaches to vaccine R&D. It describes and assesses the role(s) played by the World Health Organization, as well as public-private partnerships like CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and Gavi, a Geneva-based vaccine procurement organization. Moreover, it offers a case study on COVAX, a quasi-global push and pull mechanism designed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to promote vaccine affordability and equity. Part IV concludes the essay by looking ahead to the end of the race and pondering the increasingly salient role of vaccine misinformation and disinformation in the uptake of emerging COVID-19 vaccines.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, vaccine, intellectual property, patent, nationalism, misinformation, disinformation, public-private partnership, World Health Organization, CEPI, Gavi, Covax, procurement, equitable vaccine distribution, Moderna, mRNA vaccine

Suggested Citation

Santos Rutschman, Ana, The COVID-19 Vaccine Race: Intellectual Property, Collaboration(s), Nationalism and Misinformation (July 21, 2020). Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 64, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Ana Santos Rutschman (Contact Author)

Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

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