A growing number of scientific researchers have called for any new vaccine to protect against COVID-19 to be in the public domain in order to make it freely and widely available.
A petition, signed by an international coalition of scientists, stipulates the need to take the profit motive out of the quest to end the coronavirus pandemic, which has left afflicted more than 3.6 million people, and caused over 258,000 deaths worldwide.
“The effectiveness of a vaccination campaign is based on its universality. Governments should make it available free of cost,” reads the petition, which was signed by 127 scientists and published on www.change.org.
“The most important thing is to put the result in the public domain, making it available to be produced by anybody under strict international regulatory supervision,” reads the petition.
“Individual governments or a group of governments, foundations, individual philanthropists, and global organizations, like WHO, with private and public support, may come forward to finance it [the vaccination]. But the ethical question of great importance that is needed to be resolved is how much profit should a laboratory or an inventor be entitled to for a life-saving drug needed by all people all over the world,” the petition continues.
The signed letter calls on the international community to “consider what global honor and recognition” inventors and laboratories can be given in return from coming up with an effective vaccine without deriving any financial profit from their research.
The call for a free and widely available vaccine echoes the words of Pope Francis, who, in his Angelus last Sunday, called for a vaccine to be available to all people.
“It is important to unite scientific capabilities, in a transparent and impartial way to find vaccines and treatments,” he said.
Pope Francis said it was also important to “guarantee universal access to essential technologies that allow each infected person, in every part of the world, to receive the necessary medical treatment.”
In their petition, the scientists called to mind the history of the vaccine that eradicated polio.
The American biologist Jonas Salk (1914-1995), invented the first polio vaccine with the help of a foundation grant, and did not derive any financial profit from his discovery.
“Salk never patented his invention. He did not demand any royalties from it. All he was interested in was to disseminate the vaccine as widely as possible, as fast as possible,” reads the petition.
“This is a good time to set a norm for the world so that we do not get blinded by money and forget lives of billions of people,” it concludes.
The entire appeal and names of its initial signatories can be found here.