ScotSkim: COVID-19 variants, vaccines for tweens, and patents

May 14, 2021

 While vaccines are rolling out to younger age groups in the U.S., other countries are struggling with new COVID variants.

A picture of COVID-19 . CC by Trinity Care Foundation

While vaccines are rolling out to younger age groups in the U.S., other countries are struggling with new COVID variants.

What Happened: The situation concerning COVID-19 in India is one of the worst in the world. Case numbers are skyrocketing, and it doesn’t seem like it is getting better anytime soon. 

What are the numbers: India is in its second wave of COVID-19. Around 3,500 people die every day, and India has a total of approximately 400,000 cases. The variant is called B.1.617. 

So, is it the most contagious variant or not?: The simple answer is, we need more time to decide. For example, the current variant that holds the title for most contagious is the U.K.’s B.1.1.7 variant. Tom Wensleeners, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Leuven, compared the two variants and described the B.1.617 variant as a “squared” version of B.1.1.7. Other researchers think it is too early to decide but agree about the dangerous nature of the B.1.617 variant. 

COVID Vaccine available for children ages 12-15

What Happened: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12-15. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Administration(CDC) must approve the vaccine. According to experts, the vaccine is safe for children aged 12-15. 

How is the efficacy? According to preliminary results from Pfizer, the vaccine has a 100% efficacy rate  in that none of the  vaccinated volunteers in the study contracted COVID-19. The clinical trials were only using volunteers aged 12-15. 

Side Effects: The side effects reported on 12-15-year-olds are the same ones that adults have experienced. Some side effects include sore arms, fevers, and chills. These side effects are not more or less severe in children aged 12-15 than in their over 16 counterparts.

What about kids younger than 12? 

Some speculate that drug companies will produce vaccines for those younger than 12 as early as next year. In the meantime, though, the best course of action to protect young children is make sure the older people around them are vaccinated. 

Vaccine patents

What is a Drug Patent

A drug patent is something that a company can file that prevents others from replicating their product. Drug patents typically last for about 20 years. Drug production is costly. It can cost well over $1 billion to discover and produce a drug. A patent is a form of security that all that money won’t be helping out another company that replicates whatever drug the company has made. 

How would one lift patent protections? 

To lift patent protections on anything, the World Health Organization (WHO) must approve it. Every member must agree on lifting patent protections and then figure out how to share the vaccine technology with other companies and countries.

Why is this matter up for debate?

To put it simply, money. The U.S. pharmaceutical companies who made the vaccine can charge however much they want for it. Because of this, the companies will mark up the price twice or three times the production value. Investors, seeing this, will invest because of the enormous profit prospects. However, if patent protections are lifted, then that means no more huge markups. So, less profit for investors and pharmaceutical companies.

Would lifting patents help?

It would get a part of the job done. However, the vaccines need highly specialized equipment, raw materials, and specialized workers. It isn’t as simple as following a recipe. 

About the Contributor
Photo of Maya Campbell
Maya Campbell, Podcast Producer
Maya Campbell is a senior at Carlmont High School, and this is her third year in the journalism program. She is interested in sports and politics and hopes to become a biotech lawyer one day. She likes playing the drums, running, and cooking. She is also a member of the Carlmont Cross Country and Track teams.

Twitter: @ _mayacampbell

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