Joseph E. Stiglitz
In most of the world, however, the problem is not resistance to vaccination but a severe shortage of vaccines. Evidently, the private sector is unable to scale up production to ensure an adequate supply. Is that because vaccine producers lack capital? Is there a shortage of glass vials or syringes?
Or is it because they hope that fewer doses will lead to higher prices and even bigger profits? Among the key barriers to greater supply is access to the requisite intellectual property, which is why the IP waiver being discussed at the World Trade Organization is so important .
Ramp up vaccine production
Given the urgency and scale of the challenge, more is needed: Among the steps U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration could take is to invoke the Defense Production Act and leverage the federal government’s ownership of key patents. The U.S. has been allowing the pharmaceutical companies to use this public IP freely, while they reap billions of dollars in profits. The U.S. must use every instrument at its disposal to increase production at home and abroad.
This, too, is a no-brainer. Even if the costs of global vaccination totaled tens of billions of dollars, the amount would pale in comparison to the costs of persistent COVID-19 outbreaks to lives, livelihoods, and the world economy.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, is a former chief economist of the World Bank (1997-2000), chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, and co-chair of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices. He is a member of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation and was lead author of the 1995 IPCC Climate Assessment.
<STRONG>This commentary was published with permission of <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary">Project Syndicate</INTERNET>—<INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/covid19-spike-in-us-reflects-misunderstanding-of-liberty-by-joseph-e-stiglitz-2021-09">COVID-19 and Human Freedom</INTERNET></STRONG>