Indiana Daily Student

Oxfam at IU stages rally to provide other countries with COVID-19 vaccine

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Oxfam at IU will lead a Free the Vaccine rally at the Catalent main campus, located at 1300 S. Patterson Dr., at 6 p.m. Wednesday in support of allowing developing countries to produce generic COVID-19 vaccines.

Speakers will give educational information and a sign-making station will be available. 

Oxfam is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting global poverty. The goal of the rally is to raise awareness about vaccine patents. According to an article from The Print, patents give vaccine makers exclusive rights to manufacture a vaccine and charge for research and development costs. 

Timothy Clark, an Ivy Tech student who plans to transfer to IU and has worked on the rally with Oxfam at IU Interim President Quinton Deppert, said Oxfam is calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to waive these patents, ensure U.S. companies will continue to make the vaccine even after all Americans are vaccinated to distribute them to the rest of the world and to share Bloomington’s expertise with the rest of the world.

Deppert said Oxfam is also demanding Catalent send information about how to make the vaccine to other countries. Catalent in Bloomington, which has played a key role in producing vaccines and is one of two locations in the nation to produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, recently ramped up production of the Moderna vaccine and reached a goal of producing an initial 100 million doses

Catalent did not respond to requests for comment.

“These are some of the only people in the world who know how to make the vaccines, they’re right here in Bloomington,” he said. “We could be training the world to make these vaccines, but we aren’t doing that.”

According to CNBC, many low-income countries do not have the intellectual property needed to produce the vaccine. In response, the protesters are calling to waive the patent laws, allowing an increase in global vaccine production. 

Deppert said vaccine manufacturers are creating private contracts to release the patent behind the vaccine only to companies that can afford what they’re charging.

According to AP, pharmaceutical companies that took taxpayer money from the U.S. or Europe to develop vaccines say they are negotiating contracts with producers on an individual basis to protect their intellectual property and ensure safety.

This creates an artificial scarcity, meaning there’s a scarcity of vaccines even though it is possible to make and share more, Deppert said. This is preventing poorer countries in need of the vaccine from receiving it. 

Deppert said the main target of the rally is the World Trade Organization, which has an agency regulating intellectual property across international lines. He said the agency will hold a meeting May 5 in which India and South Africa will likely discuss a proposal they’ve put forward to temporarily waive patent protections. 

“We’re vaccinating everyone here first and we’re using the WTO’s intellectual property rules as an instrument to ensure that these vaccines aren't shared and these companies make an insane amount of money off them,” Deppert said. 

Clark said there is manufacturing capacity in the world that cannot spring into action because of vaccine patent protections. 

“It’s really clear that we need to be putting everything we can into making as many vaccines as possible,” Clark said. “Making sure that these vaccines can only be produced by one company at a time doesn't really make sense with that.”

He said the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine represents a health care freedom that, for many people in other parts of the world, is being postponed. 

“What we're saying is we are glad that we have this privilege, but we're not gonna be content with that,” Clark said.”We're going to share that with the rest of the world as hard as we can.” 

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