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WATCH: Moderna won’t enforce COVID vaccine patents right now, but not waiving rights

More than a year after COVID-19 vaccines first became available, roughly half of the global population has been vaccinated, and data suggests massive disparities in access to these life-saving tools. Moderna chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told the PBS NewsHour’s chief correspondent Amna Nawaz on Thursday that the company isn’t enforcing its patent “during the pandemic phase” in case “other people want to produce the vaccine” and get more people vaccinated around the world. But, as Nawaz clarified, that’s not the same thing as waiving the patents, which would enable more countries to make their own vaccines.

While Moderna has donated hundreds of millions of doses to increase vaccination rates in underserved countries, critics say they could be doing more, such as sharing intellectual property so local supplies can be manufactured more readily. To expand vaccine access at this point in the pandemic, Burton said local distribution played a greater role than companies producing enough doses, and noted upcoming efforts to “produce a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility” to make doses for African nations. Overall, just one out of 10 people in low-income countries are estimated to have received a first COVID vaccine dose.

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