The Biden administration’s unexpected support for temporarily waiving Covid-19 vaccine patents won’t have an immediate financial impact on the companies making the shots, industry officials and analysts said.
Yet the decision could mark a shift in Washington’s longstanding support of the industry’s valuable intellectual property, patent-law experts said. A waiver, if it does go into effect, may pose long-term risks to the vaccine makers, analysts said.
Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and other vaccine makers weren’t counting on sales from the developing countries that would gain access to the vaccine technology, analysts said. If patents and other crucial product information behind the technology is made available, it would take at least several months before shots were produced, industry officials said.
Yet long-term Covid-19 sales could take a hit if other companies and countries gained access to the technologies and figured out how to use it. Western drugmakers could also confront competition sooner for other medicines they are hoping to make using the technologies.
A World Trade Organization waiver could also set a precedent for waiving patents for other medicines, a long-sought goal of some developing countries, patient groups and others to try to reduce the costs of prescription drugs.