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AP: Vaccine production hampered by pharma patents

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Enterprise correspondent Lori Hinnant and health and science correspondent Maria Cheng broke the news that governments and aid groups worldwide, along with the World Health Organization, are calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine information more broadly to meet a yawning global shortfall and inequities in vaccine distribution.

The companies say they can only sign deals on a one-on-one basis to protect their intellectual property, but critics believe they have broader obligations because they took taxpayer money to develop the vaccines. The London-based reporters found three factories on three continents whose owners say they could start producing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines on short notice if only they had the blueprints and technical know-how. A former director of chemistry at Moderna confirmed that, and photographer Al-emrun Garjon delivered photos of a high-tech factory in Bangladesh producing vaccine at about 25% of its capacity.

After the AP story ran, the head of WHO, citing a health emergency, called for patent rights to be waived until the end of the pandemic so that vaccine supplies can be dramatically increased.

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Production personnel perform a visual inspection of filled vaccine vials inside the Incepta plant on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Feb. 13, 2021. – AP Photo / Al-emrun Garjon
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