A small team of Texas researchers is being hailed for developing an unpatented Covid-19 vaccine to share with the world without personal profit, with some advocates asking, if they can do it, why can’t Big Pharma?
Dubbed “the World’s Covid vaccine,” the inoculation—formally called Cobervax—is an open-source alternative to Big Pharma’s patent-protected vaccines. Instead of being produced for profit, this shot could ultimately be manufactured around the world and made cheaply available to all without governmental or private legal retribution.
Common Dreams reported this week that Cobervax—developed jointly by Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston’s Baylor College, and the Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E. Limited—was authorized for emergency use in India amid a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant. Texas Children’s Hospital says the new vaccine is at least 90% effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and 80% or more effective against its Delta variant.
“We’re not trying to make money,” Peter Hotez, who led the Texas Children’s Hospital team, told The Washington Post. “We just want to see people get vaccinated.”
According to the Post, “Biological E. has ambitious plans to produce more than one billion doses of the vaccine in 2022.” And while Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi at Baylor won’t personally profit from vaccine they were instrumental in developing, the Post reports Baylor will take a fee.
Hotez said the Hyderabad-based pharma firm has about 150 million Cobervax doses ready to distribute, with 300 million more doses pre-ordered by the Indian government. The company hopes to ramp up production to 100 million monthly doses in order to better serve a nation in which only around 40% of the population are fully vaccinated.
Peter Maybarduk, director of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said Thursday that “Texas Children’s Hospital’s commitment to sharing technology is a challenge to the pharma giants and the false narrative that vaccine production and medical innovation thrive through secrecy and exclusivity.”