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The Biden administration said on Wednesday it supports the limited waiver of intellectual property rules in the service of expanding vaccine distribution to low-income countries currently stricken by the pandemic.
But Bourla, whose company produces one of three vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States, said he “categorically” believed the proposed waiver “would create more problems.”
“Currently, infrastructure is not the bottleneck for us to manufacture faster,” Bourla wrote in a letter to a dear colleague posted on LinkedIn. “The restriction is the scarcity of the highly specialized raw materials needed to produce our vaccine. “
Pfizer’s vaccine requires 280 different materials and components from 19 countries around the world, Bourla said. He argued that without patent protection, entities with much less experience than Pfizer in making vaccines will start competing for the same ingredients.
“Currently, virtually every gram of raw material produced is shipped immediately to our manufacturing facilities and is immediately and reliably converted into vaccines that are immediately shipped around the world,” Bourla wrote.
He predicted that the proposed waiver “threatens to disrupt the flow of raw materials.”
John Thys | Piscine | Reuters
“Entities with little or no vaccine manufacturing experience are likely to seek out the very raw materials we need to scale our production, thereby endangering the safety and security of all,” wrote the CEO. .
The White House referred CNBC’s awareness of Bourla’s post to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
World Trade Organization leaders recently urged member countries to reach agreement on possible vaccine patent waivers. But even with the backing of the United States, a deal is hardly guaranteed, as WTO decisions are based on consensus, requiring the approval of 164 members.
Germany, a member of the WTO and Europe’s largest economy, voted against the waiver proposal on Thursday. BioNTech, which has partnered with Pfizer to develop the vaccine, is based in Germany.
“The recent rhetoric will not deter us from continuing to invest in science. But I’m not sure the same is true for the thousands of small biotech innovators who are totally dependent on access to capital from investors who invest solely on the premise that their intellectual property will be protected, ”the CEO wrote. .
PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry interest groups whose member companies include Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, another vaccine supplier in the United States, called the waiver proposal “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to pandemic and jeopardize security ”.
Meanwhile, CEO Stephane Bancel of Moderna, maker of the other US-approved Covid shot, said he was not concerned about possible waivers.