The world has watched in amazement as innovative companies and their scientists battle the clock to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. Without companies like Pfizer, BioNTech, Johnson and Johnson, and Moderna, the number of pandemic deaths would be much higher. But now millions of people across the country and the world are vaccinated. People are going back to work; children are going back to school and our economy is open.
Here in Texas, our economy is only getting stronger. From the energy sector to the service sector, we are poised for explosive growth in 2021. One sector of our economy that is critical to this growth is our emerging life sciences sector. According to a 2019 report from the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute, the industry contributes more than $ 3 billion in federal and state taxes per year, and overall economic output is $ 61.5 billion.
This is why the Biden administration’s initial support for pressure from the World Trade Organization to forgo intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines is of concern. Intellectual property rights are essential to the expansion of our life sciences industry. The erosion of these protections could have detrimental long-term effects on R&D investments that would lead to future medical discoveries that would save lives. But the damage wouldn’t stop there – it could spread to any industry that relies on intellectual property. What incentive would a company have to innovate if the government just took its intellectual property and gave it to whoever wanted it?
That’s why the Texas Association of Business recently signed a statement with the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute and the Texas Association of Manufacturers to express our collective concern. Any policy that limits discovery and stifles innovation will hold back economic growth and, perhaps more importantly, make us less prepared to face the next global crisis.
But the United States still needs to do everything in its power to ensure that other countries can access the vaccine. We know that until the vaccine takes hold in the world, the global economy cannot fully recover. But it is not an “one or the other” choice. And that’s why the Biden administration’s decision to distribute 500 million vaccines worldwide is far superior to waiving intellectual property.
This is America at its best and that is why it must continue.
US pharmaceutical companies have demonstrated unprecedented levels of collaboration, keeping fairness at the center of the entire process and contracting with each other to increase capacity. As a result, they have shipped millions of doses around the world and we have seen the fastest development of effective vaccines ever. These companies have the capacity and the manufacturing capacity to continue to produce high quality vaccines and are doing so at a rapid rate. And now, with the help of the United States government, it is only a matter of time before every country in the world has access to the vaccine.
There’s a reason America is home to world-changing discoveries and innovations. Entrepreneurship thrives here because we’ve created an ecosystem that allows ideas to flourish – and protects investments in them.
And there’s a reason the United States remains the greatest nation on earth. Because during the world’s toughest times America is leading the way.
Glenn Hamer is the CEO of the Texas Association of Business.