Published: May 2021

Public health policy versus pharmaceutical industry IP rights

Advocacy groups ask the White House to ensure that vaccines whose development was wholly or in part developed with taxpayer funding are not held hostage by unfair patent restrictions that hinder public health goals.

In an April 19 letter to Jeffrey Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator, advocacy groups registered strong concern about the current ownership rights of the mRNA and vaccine technologies that enable the production of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly as public health officials now indicate that COVID-19’s rapid mutations may require world populations to receive regular boosters and reformulations of the vaccine, similar to the flu. The basic research for this technology was underwritten by taxpayers, allowing the United States to produce COVID-19 vaccines in less than one year. Nonetheless, the technologies needed to produce the vaccines are held by a handful of private, for-profit firms that guard access to the formulations. Other entities seeking to produce COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are forced to barter with these for-profit corporations.

The signatories urged the Biden Administration to stand up for the taxpayer’s intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and use the various executive powers available to the administration to undo the power of intellectual property in the American pharmaceutical industry to prioritize public health ahead of the interests of those who claim the rights to intellectual property developed with taxpayer dollars.

To download the letter, scroll down (Download PDF).

Lead Organization

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Other Organizations

American Economic Liberties Project | Consumer Action | Debt Collective | Democracy For America | Demand Progress Education Fund | Electronic Frontier Foundation | The Freedom BLOC | Greenpeace US | Indivisible | Open Markets Institute | People’s Parity Project | Project Blueprint | Revolving Door Project | Social Security Works | UNITE HERE

More Information

Arthur Allen, “For Billion-Dollar COVID Vaccines, Basic Government-Funded Science Laid the Groundwork,” Kaiser Health News, Nov. 18, 2020,

Download PDF

Public health policy versus pharmaceutical industry IP rights   (Zients IP and Vaccines Letter 4-19-21.pdf)




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