Open letter: On vaccines against Sars-Cov2

Feb 9, 2021

The French complete version of this letter – « Les vaccins contre le SARS-CoV-2 doivent être considérés comme des biens publics mondiaux » –  was published in Le Monde.

The Spanish version of the letter – Carta abierta: “¿Se puede patentar el Sol?” Sobre las vacunas contra el SARS-CoV-2″ – is available on

The follow-up of this open letter – Appel de Paris
– a common initiative with authors of other petitions – we’re joining our forces for a meeting on March 11, 2021

Open letter

“Could you patent the Sun?” On vaccines against Sars-Cov2 

For the complete list of signatories, please see below

The vaccine against the Sars-cov2 was developed as a remedy to a pandemic that has radically changed the lives of billions of people, that has killed millions of them and the effects of which – human, social and political and economic – are going to be felt for decades to come. There is only one known cure for this disease, and that is an effective vaccination program. 

Vaccines are now being produced by a handful of pharmaceutical laboratories on different continents, but this production does not meet the global demand. Yet, legal means are available to impose compulsory or ex officio licensing for vaccine patents internationally, and to allow laboratories that do not hold the patent for a vaccine to produce it anyway. For the moment only local licenses negotiated by the patent holders seem to be on the cards. 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its support for this idea of compulsory licensing in November 2020. It has also expressed its concern about the dangers of limiting production to respect the regime of intellectual property rights in the current pandemic context. Indeed, according to the UN, “intellectual property is not a human right, but a social product, having a social function”, and in cases where it might undermine “the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights”, it needs to be rethought. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concludes that States should use “all the flexibilities of the TRIPS Agreement” (The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, 2001) to ensure that everyone has access to a COVID-19 vaccine. The CESCR goes as far as to support the request of several States “to waive some of the provisions of the TRIPS agreement in the context of this global health crisis”. 

Moreover, the WHO underlined already in 2005 that its Medicines Strategy was aimed at providing “access to medicines based on need rather than the ability to pay”, while striking a balance between the concern for maintaining trade (essential for economic growth) and promoting human health.  

This pandemic is unlikely to be our last one – we need international structures that will allow the rapid development of vaccines. Recent scientific discoveries of a variety of options potentially offered by RNA-based vaccines give new hope for the possibility of quickly developing effective vaccines in case of any new pandemics. But this new research potential cannot be translated into a global health solution without an infrastructure ready to massively manufacture the necessary vaccines, as well as emergency procedures allowing authorities to suspend or lessen, on a global scale, intellectual property provisions for certain medical goods.

We, philosophers, legal scholars and political scientists, working on fundamental questions concerning law, ethics, politics, health, science and technology, ask for immediate action from Western governments, in particular those which belong to the OECD, to impose a special, temporary regime for the intellectual property rights covering the vaccines against SARS-Cov2, to make them available globally. Here, we join many others who have already voiced concern over the strict implementation of international patent policy in this context, including the medical staff of MSF, scientists, and other members of civil society. These vaccines should be produced in all the laboratories that can be adequately equipped, and the patented techniques should be made as freely available as was the genome of the Sars-Cov 2, in January 2020

Vaccines should be considered as Global Public Goods and special policies should be tailored in order to maximize the production of the effective products. We should remember that when asked who owned the patent for the polio vaccine, its creator Jonas Salk answered, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the Sun?”

  1. Joseph Agassi, Professor em. of Philosophy of Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  2. Manuela Albertone, Professor of Modern Legal History, University of Turin, Italy
  3. Joan Anfossi-Divol, Associate Professor in Intellectual Property Law, Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France 
  4. Aurélien Antoine, Professor of Law, University of Saint-Étienne, France
  5. C. Argyriadis-Kervegan, Professor in Legal History, CYU Cergy Paris Université, France
  6. Andrew Arana, Professor of Philosophy, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France
  7. Gabriela Arguedas Ramírez, Associate Professor. Bioethics. Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica
  8. Daniel Attas, Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  9. Isabelle Aubert, Associate Professor in Legal Philosophy, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  10. Bernard Baertschi, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  11. Etienne Balibar, Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University London, UK
  12. Ségolène Barbou des Places, Professor of Law, Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  13. Benoit Bastard, Professor of Political Sociology,CNRS, École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay, France
  14. María Julia Bertomeu, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas, Argentina
  15. Magali Bessone, Professor of Political Philosophy, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  16. Pierre Birnbaum, Professor of Political Sociology, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  17. Patricia Blanchette, Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, US
  18. Thomas Boccon-Gibod, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Université Grenoble Alpes, France
  19. Jessica Brandler, Researcher in Political Sociology, Sciences Po Bordeaux, France
  20. Daniel Brauer, Professor of Philosophy of History, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
  21. Mathilde Brémond, Associate Professor in Ancient Philosophy, Clermont-Auvergne University, France
  22. John Broome, Emeritus White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK
  23. Pierre Brunet, Professor of Law, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  24. Jose Brunner, Professor (Emeritus) in History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  25. Marta Bunge, Professor Emerita, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
  26. Francesca Caroccia, Professor of Private Law, University of L’Aquila, Italy
  27. Mathieu Carpentier, Professor of Public Law, Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, France 
  28. Anne-Sophie Chambost, Professor of Legal History, Sciences Po Lyon, France
  29. Ruth Chang, Professor Jurisprudence, University of Oxford, UK
  30. Jean-Pierre Changeux, Honorary Professor at Collège de France, Paris, France
  31. David Chavalarias, Senior Researcher in social & political mathematics, CNRS, France
  32. David Chauvet, Phd. in Law, Institut de Droit Européen des Droits de l’Homme, University of Montpellier, France
  33. Jose Antonio Cheibub, Professor of Political Science, Texas A&M University, US
  34. Robin Celikates, Professor of Social Philosophy, FU Berlin, Germany 
  35. Ryoa Chung, Professor of Philosophy, Université de Montréal, Canada
  36. Maria Susana Ciruzzi, Researcher in Criminal Law and in Bioethics, Hospital Garrahan, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  37. Jacques Commaille, Professor of Political Sociology, Ecole normale supérieure, France
  38. Sébastien Claeys, Researcher in Moral Philosophy, Espace éthique Île-de-France, France
  39. Christine Clavien, Senior lecturer, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  40. Paul Clavier, Professor of Philosophy, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France
  41. Marie-Anne Cohendet, Professor at the Ecole de droit de la Sorbonne, Pantheon Sorbonne University, France
  42. Antoine Corre-Basset, Professor of Public Law, University of Rouen, France
  43. Roger Crisp, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK
  44. Jonathan Dancy, Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin, US & University of Reading, UK
  45. Nicolas Delon, Assistant Professor in Philosophy and Environmental Studies, New College of Florida, US
  46. Nadav Davidovitch, Professor of Medical Ethics, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  47. Marc-Antoine  Dilhac, Associate Professor in Ethics, Political and Legal Philosophy, Université de Montréal, Canada
  48. Élodie Djordjevic, Associate Professor in Legal Philosophy, Pantheon, Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II, France
  49. Juliette Dumont, Associate Professor in Political History, University Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, France
  50. Laurence Dumoulin, CNRS Research Fellow, PACTE, Sciences Po Grenoble UGA, France
  51. Filipe Drapeau Contim, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Université de Rennes 1, France
  52. Lisa Eckenwiler, Professor of Philosophy, George Mason University, US
  53. Noah Efron, Professor of Science, Technology & Society, Bar Ilan University, Israel
  54. David Enoch, Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  55. Kathinka Evers, Professor in Philosophy, Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics, Uppsala University, Sweden
  56. Jesús Ezquerro, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, University of the Basque Country – UPV/EHU, Spain
  57. Michele Farisco, Researcher in Moral Philosophy, Uppsala University, Sweden
  58. Manuel Ferrari, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina
  59. Dani Filc, Professor of Political Philosophy, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel 
  60. Franck Fischbach, Professor of Philosophy, University of Strasbourg, France
  61. Bastien François, Professor of Political Science, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  62. Manfred Frank, Prof. em. of Philosophy, University of Tübingenn, Germany
  63. Rainer Forst, Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main, Germany
  64. Jennifer Gandhi, Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University, US
  65. Gabriel Gatti, Professor of Political Sociology, University of the Basque Country, Spain
  66. Maximilian de Gaynesford, Professor of Philosophy, University of Reading, UK
  67. Charlotte Girard, Associate Professor of Public Law, Université Paris Nanterre, France
  68. Snait Gissis, Researcher in History and Philosophy of Science, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  69. Michal Givoni, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
  70. Jean-Christophe Goddard, Professor of Philosophy, Université de Toulouse 2, France
  71. Philip Goff, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Durham University, UK
  72. Juan F. Gonzalez-Bertomeu, Principal Researcher, Institute for Legal Studies, UNAM, Mexico
  73. Neve Gordon, Professor in Human Rights, Queen Mary University of London, UK
  74. Stefan Gosepath, Professor Philosophy, Freie University Berlin, Germany
  75. Sophie Guérard de Latour, Professor in Political Philosophy, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France
  76. Bertrand Guillarme, Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy, University Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis, France
  77. Jürgen Habermas, Professor em. of Philosophy, University of Frankfurt, Germany
  78. Hazar Haidar, Lecturer in Bioethics at Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada
  79. Albeerto Oscar Herrera, Researcher in Constitutional Law, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
  80. Nicole Hassoun, Professor Binghamton University and Executive Director Global Health Impact Organization, US
  81. Axel Honneth, Jack C Weinstein Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University, New York, US
  82. Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez, Professor of Law, University Paris Nanterre, France
  83. Stephen Holmes, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law, US
  84. Richard Holton, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge, UK
  85. Fiona Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Essex, UK
  86. Phil Hutchinson, Senior Lecturer in Philosophical Psychology, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
  87. Nahomi Ichino, Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University, US
  88. Rahel Jaeggi, Professor for Social and Political Philosophy, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  89. Laurent Jaffro, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, Paris, France
  90. Alison M Jaggar, Professor Emerita of Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder, US
  91. Soazick Kerneis, Professor of Legal History, University Paris Nanterre, France
  92. Jean-François Kervégan, Professor of Philosophy, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  93. Ulrik Kihlbom, Associate Professor in Medical Ethics, Uppsala University, Sweden
  94. Raphaël Künstler, Lecturer in Philosophy, Université Toulouse II Jean Jaurès, France
  95. Sandra Lapointe, Professor of Philosophy, McMaster University, Canada
  96. Silyane Larcher, Researcher in Political Science, CNRS, France
  97. F. William Lawvere, Professor emeritus of Philosophy of Mathematics at University of Buffalo, NY, US
  98. Eléonore Le Jallé, Professor of Contemporary Philosophy, University of Lille, France
  99. Carole Lemée, Associate Professor in Philosophical Anthropology, Université de Bordeaux, France
  100. Samuel Lepine, Associate Professor in Moral and Political Philosophy, Clermont Auvergne University, France
  101. Fernando Limongi, Professor of Political Science, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  102. Pierre Lombrail, Professor em. of Public Health, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, France
  103. Michael Loughlin, Professor of Applied Philosophy, University of West London, UK
  104. Ilana Lowy, Senior Researcher em. in History and Philosophy of Sciences, INSERM, France
  105. Macarena Marey, Researcher in Political Philosophy, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
  106. Mathieu Marion FRSC, full professor, Department of philosophy, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada
  107. Elise Marrou, Associate Professor in Contemporary Philosophy, Sorbonne University, France
  108. Julio Martínez-Cava, Adjunct lecturer, Sociology, University of Barcelona, Spain
  109. Jean Matringe, Professor of Law, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  110. Christoph Menke, Professor of Philosophy, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  111. Francesca Minerva, Researcher in Philosophy, University of Milan, Italy
  112. Eric Millard, Professor of Law, Université Paris Nanterre, France
  113. Christophe Miqueu, Professor of Political Philosophy, University of Bordeaux, France
  114. Wioletta Miskiewicz, Senior Researcher at the CNRS, France
  115. Danièle Moyal-Sharrock, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire, UK
  116. Rafael E. de Munagorri, Professor of Law, Nantes University, France
  117. Magnus Nordborg, Scientific Director, Gregor Mendel Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria
  118. Ilan Noy, Chair in the Economics of Disasters, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  119. Claus Offe, Professor em. of Poitical Science, Humboldt University Berlin and Hertie School, Germany
  120. Gloria Origgi, Senior Researchers at the CNRS, Paris, France
  121. Michael Leo Owens, Associate Professor of Political Science, Emory University, US
  122. Carlos Parada, Researcher in Philosophical Psychology, France
  123. Noël Pécout, Lecturer in Philosophy, Lyon, Paris
  124. Corine Pelluchon, Professor of Philosophy at Gustave Eiffel University, France
  125. Javier Pérez Sandoval, researcher in Politics and Quantitative Methods, University of Oxford, UK
  126. Bruno Perreau, Cynthia L. Reed Professor of French Studies and Social Theory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
  127. Elle Pfeffer, Researcher in Politics, University of Oxford, UK
  128. John Pitseys, Lecturer in Legal and Political Philosophy, currently Senator at the Brussels Regional Parliament, Belgium 
  129. Alain Policar, Professor of Law and of Political Sciences, Sciences Po Paris, France
  130. Hervé Pourtois, Professor in Political Philosophy, University of Louvain, Belgium
  131. Adam Przeworski, Carrol and Milton Petrie Professor of Politics (Emeritus), New York University, US
  132. Paula Quinon, Assistant Research Professor in Philosophy, Warsaw University of Technology, Poland
  133. Migel A. Quintanilla, Professor em. of Logic and Philosophy of Science Universit of Salamanca, Spain
  134. Pierre-Yves Quiviger, Professor of Legal and Political Philosophy, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  135. Alain Renaut, Professor (emeritus) in Political and Moral Philosophy, Sorbonne University, France
  136. Sandrine Revet, Senior Researcher in Anthropology, Sciences Po, Paris, France
  137. Valérie Robert, Associate Professor in German Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, France
  138. Laurent Rollet, Associate Professor in Epistemology and History of Sciences, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France
  139. Julie Saada, Professor of Legal Philosophy, Sciences Po Paris, France
  140. Daniel Sabbagh, Senior Research Fellow, Political Science, Sciences Po/CERI, France
  141. Maria Paula Saffon, Principal Researcher, Institute for Legal Studies, UNAM, Mexico
  142. Constantine Sandis, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire, UK
  143. Shanker Satyanath, Professor of Political Science, New York University, UK
  144. Patrick Savidan, Professor of Philosophy, Université Paris-Est Créteil, France
  145. Hans Schneider, Associate Professor, Sydney University, Australia
  146. Thomas M. Schmidt, Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany
  147. Yann Schmitt, Lecturer in Philosophy, Lille, France
  148. Assaf Sharon, Professor in ethics and political philosophy, Tel Aviv University, Israel 
  149. Kevin M. Shea, Director,  Effective Altruism Rationality to Help, New York, US
  150. Jérôme Segal, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University Paris Sorbonne, France
  151. José Segovia Martín, Researcher in Cognitive Sciences, Complex Systems Institute (ISC-PIF) (CNRS), France
  152. Jonathan Simon, Associate Professor in Philosophy of Pharmacy & Philosophy of Sciences, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France
  153. Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, US
  154. John Skorupski, Professor Emeritus of Moral Philosophy, University of St Andrews; Visiting Professor Philosophy, Birbkbeck College University of London, UK
  155. Jean-Marc Sorel, Professor of Public International Law, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, France
  156. Dan Sperber, Professor of Cognitive Science and of Philosophy, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
  157. Natalia Strok, Adjunct Researcher in History of Medieval and Modern Philosophy, CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  158. Sandra Szurek, Professor em. of Law, Université Paris Nanterre, France
  159. Wataru Tanaka, Professor of Law, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo, Japan
  160. Olivier Tinland, Associate Professor in Contemporary Philosophy, University Paul Valéry of Montpellier, France
  161. Florent Trocquenet-Lopez, Lecturer in Philosophy, Paris, France
  162. Michel Troper, Professor (emeritus) of Public Law, Université Paris Nanterre, France
  163. Paul-Loup Weil-Dubuc, Researcher in Moral Philosophy & Espace Ethique IDF, Université Paris-Saclay, France
  164. Daniel Weinstock, Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy, McGill University, Canada
  165. Mikhail Xifaras, Professor of Law, Sciences Po Law School, France
  166. Heinz-Jochen Zenker, Professor of Public Health, President of Ärzte der Welt/ Doctors of the World, Germany
  167. Lionel Zevounou, Associate Professor in Public Law, Paris Nanterre University, France
  168. Anna C. Zielinska, Associate Professor in Moral, Legal and Political Philosophy, University of Lorraine, Nancy, France
  169. Hadas Ziv, Director of Ethics in Physicians for Human Rights, Israel