The COVID-19 Vaccine Void: When Should Patents Be Waived?


For many in the Western world, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be reaching an end as distribution for multiple vaccines is well underway. But this turnaround belies a much grimmer picture as non-Western nations continue to be devasted by the virus. This disparity is due in large part to corporate patents over vaccines, which benefit the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing and profiting from them, while privileging the countries that can afford to make and distribute them and limiting access for the rest of the world—thereby potentially prolonging the pandemic and leading to preventable deaths. The possibility of waiving patent protections, which has vocal supporters and detractors, is now up for a vote within the World Trade Organization. This case asks students to discuss the inequities inherent in vaccine patents and to weigh the corporate benefits of enforcing them against the ethical responsibility to waive them.

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes.

2023 Sage Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved

You are not authorized to view Teaching Notes. Please contact your librarian for access or sign in to your existing instructor profile.
locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles