Vaccines as Technology: Innovation, Barriers and the Public Health (Introduction)

13 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2021 Last revised: 7 Apr 2022

See all articles by Ana Santos Rutschman

Ana Santos Rutschman

Villanova University - Charles Widger School of Law


The fact that vaccines are subject to many of the same market forces that regulate other types of technology warrants examining the vaccine ecosystem through the lens of technology-centered law and policies. Many of the legal and policy frameworks applicable to vaccine research and development (R&D) and vaccine distribution were not created in the petri dishes of public health law and policy. Intellectual property as commonly understood today is largely a byproduct of the technological developments brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and was implemented with the overarching utilitarian purpose of promoting innovation – which in the case of the patent system focuses specifically on scientific and technical innovation. Vaccines and other health goods join the ranks of innovations that qualify for patent protection, even though they are used in ways that are fundamentally different from other types of technologies.

By introducing and using this vaccines-as-technology framework, the book makes three main contributions. First, it draws attention to the intertwining laws, policies and other structures that determine and shape the development and distribution of vaccines. Second, the book shows that excessive reliance on market-driven forces – including but not limited to patent-centric modes of vaccine development – produces results that are largely antithetical to public health and systemically disadvantage lower-income populations, especially those located in the Global South. And third, operating within existing legal and policy tools, the book examines possible solutions to mitigate the most acute consequences of this reliance on markets instead of public health needs.

Funding Information: None to declare.

Declaration of Interests: None to declare.

Keywords: vaccine, technology, innovation, pharmaceuticals, markets, intellectual property, contracts, patent, COVID-19, pandemic, epidemic, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, nationalism

Suggested Citation

Santos Rutschman, Ana, Vaccines as Technology: Innovation, Barriers and the Public Health (Introduction). CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS (2022), Saint Louis U. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-28, 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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