Covid-19 vaccine research should be put in public domain, says Glasgow professor

Research around Covid-19 vaccines should be made freely available to the public, a health economist at Glasgow Caledonian University has argued.

Senior Clinical Research Nurse Ajithkumar Sukumaran prepares the Covid-19 vaccine to administer to a volunteer at a clinic in London AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Senior Clinical Research Nurse Ajithkumar Sukumaran prepares the Covid-19 vaccine to administer to a volunteer at a clinic in London AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Professor Cam Donaldson called for patents for the vaccine to be put in the public domain for the good of humanity.

Co-writing in the Lancet with Nobel peace prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Prof Donaldson called for the pharmaceutical industry to put the “global common good” before profit.

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"As the virus knows no geographic boundaries, we have to act to help each other,” he said.

"Scientific consensus is that the only way this pandemic will be eradicated is through the vaccination of all people worldwide.

"It is, therefore, important to recognise this in our policy actions to avoid the tragedy of the commons, in which selfish behaviour leads to adverse communal outcomes. This is true for countries as well as individuals.”

Prof Donaldson is the Yunus Chair and Pro Vice Chancellor Research at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The centre is named after Professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work empowering people to break out of extreme poverty through microfinance.

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"We call for the response to Covid-19 to be global in deeds as well as words and based on principles of equal and universal access to treatments and vaccines,” said Prof Donaldson.

"The mission, and driver, should not be one of profit, but rather the achievement of the widest and maximum health benefit possible."

Prof Donaldson argued the funds needed to compensate for putting the research in the public domain would not be significant, and that the enormity of successfully creating a vaccine would be its own reward.

"The funds required to mobilise around Covid-19 vaccines as a global common good are likely to pale into insignificance relative to what will be required to address on ongoing economic recession consequent on non-eradication,” he said.

"The collective reward for laboratories and researchers who contribute to the development of Covid-19 vaccines for the common good would be the ability operate in more settled markets and perhaps a Nobel Prize in medicine, and even in peace."

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