This paper explores the public sector’s often undersold role in vaccine research and development (R&D). Further, it examines the recent shift in vaccine innovation policy caused by the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to factors such as lack of repetitive dosage, high levels of at-risk investment, and long, large clinical trials, it is difficult to incentivize the private sector to invest in vaccine R&D. To counter these difficulties, vaccine innovation policy focuses on both push and pull incentives to ensure vaccine R&D is proceeding. Government institutions make large at-risk investments to offset the risk for private sector investment into vaccine R&D. Additionally, the government creates innovation policies that make intellectual property rights (IPR) more favourable for those who invest in vaccine R&D. With the removal of IPR for COVID-19 vaccines, the public sector became more instrumental in incentivizing private sector investment, using techniques such as mass ex-ante government vaccine procurement agreements, public-private partnerships, and increased government investments. With more significant government investments in downstream development and manufacturing activities, there is concern that the basic scientific research required for advances in vaccine technology will diminish. With the COVID-19 pandemic still unfolding, it is difficult to determine whether vaccine innovation policy will remain as it is now. However, even if vaccine innovation policy shifts post-pandemic, the public sector must continue to play an important role in vaccine R&D.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Ella Brown