UNESCO welcomes move to lift patent on vaccines and pushes for Open Science

The decision of the United States and many other countries to call for the lifting of patent protection for coronavirus vaccines could save millions of lives and serve as a blueprint for the future of scientific cooperation. COVID-19 does not respect borders. No country will be safe until the people of every country have access to the vaccine.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

This growing momentum comes in response to the joint appeal made by UNESCO, the WHO and the UNHCR to open up science and boost scientific cooperation in October 2020. Early in the pandemic last spring, UNESCO mobilized over 122 countries to promote Open Science and reinforced international cooperation.

The pandemic triggered strong support for Open Science among Member States for this agenda. Chinese scientists sequenced the genome of the new coronavirus on 11 January 2020 and posted it online, enabling German scientists to develop a screening test, which was then shared by the World Health Organization with governments everywhere. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has embarked on a new era of scientific research, forcing all countries to construct the shared rules and common norms we need to work more effectively in these changing times.

The recent announcements of countries in favor of lifting patents show the growing support for open scientific cooperation. They also coincide with the five-day meeting of UNESCO Member States to define a global standard-setting framework on Open Science, which aims to develop new models for the circulation of scientific knowledge and its benefits, including global commons.

The outcomes of the meeting will lead to a Global Recommendation on Open Science to be adopted by UNESCO’s 193 Member States at the Organization’s General Conference in November 2021. This Recommendation aims to be a driver for shared global access to data, publications, patents, software, educational resources and technological innovations and to reengage all of society in science.

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