Are There Generic Vaccines?

We are used to drugs becoming generic once they have been around for a while, which may have you wondering if we have generic vaccines too.

“Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

Jonas Salk

In addition to vaccines that don’t have patents, others have lost their patent protection, which typically lasts for only 20 years, so it seems like we could have generic vaccines.

Are There Generic Vaccines?

And we have.

Consider that once upon a time:

  • the Texas Department of Health Resources made up to 7 different vaccines
  • the University of Illinois made a BCG vaccine
  • the Michigan Department of Public Health made up to 8 different vaccines
  • Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories (Mass Biologics) made several vaccines

These included many generic vaccines, including DPT and IPV.

In addition to Tenivac, made by Sanofi Pasteur, MassBiologics makes a generic Td vaccine.

In fact, the Massachusetts Public Health Biological Laboratories continues to make the last remaining generic vaccines, DT and Td.

Why Aren’t There More Generic Vaccines?

Couldn’t more pharmaceutical companies make vaccines, including more generic vaccines, so that they could be less expensive?

“In sum, although patent protection remains the major barrier to the production of affordable small-molecule generics, access to trade-secret–protected information and know-how present major additional obstacles to generic production of vaccines.”

Improving Global Access to New Vaccines: Intellectual Property, Technology Transfer, and Regulatory Pathways

Unfortunately, unlike drugs, patents aren’t the only issue when making a generic vaccine. You also need the expertise, investment, and studies to prove that your generic vaccine is as safe and effective as similar vaccines.

More on Generic Vaccines

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