Enabling other manufacturers to produce Covaxin is a necessary step
In fact, the Centre’s submission to the Supreme Court that the “exercise of statutory powers… under the Patents Act, 1970… can only prove to be counter-productive at this stage”, is clearly contradictory to its international position for a temporary waiver in the TRIPS Agreement. The Agreement allows exceptions to the rights of patent owners by grant of compulsory licences. Section 100 of the Patents Act, 1970, allows the Centre to license specific companies to manufacture the vaccines, while Section 92 of the Act allows the Centre to issue a compulsory licence in circumstances of a national or an extreme emergency. Considering the impact of the second wave, the daily toll and the high case load, the Centre should revisit its rigid and contradictory stance on the issue of compulsory licensing that would allow the manufacture of vaccines and important drugs without the consent of the patent holder. In the case of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which was developed in collaboration with the publicly funded ICMR and the NIV, even this route is redundant. The ICMR can license other public sector vaccine manufacturers to help augment its supply over the medium term. As of now, two central PSUs, Indian Immunologicals Ltd and BIBCOL, have already entered into a technology transfer agreement with Bharat Biotech, besides the Haffkine Bio-pharmaceutical Corporation based in Mumbai. Other manufacturers can also re-purpose their plants to produce the vaccine.
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