The proposal, put forward by India and South Africa in October, calls on the W.T.O. to exempt member countries from enforcing some patents, trade secrets or pharmaceutical monopolies under the organization’s agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known as TRIPs…

In other words, the vaccines developed by these companies were developed thanks wholly or partly to taxpayer money. Those vaccines essentially belong to the people — and yet the people are about to pay for them again, and with little prospect of getting as many as they need fast enough.

We calculate, based on Pfizer’s and Moderna’s stated vaccine-production capacity and their supply deals with the United States and the European Union, as well as Japan and Canada, that these countries can expect, at best, to have about 50 percent of their populations covered by the end of 2021. Considering that 82 percent of the vaccines Pfizer says it can produce through next year and 78 percent of Moderna’s have already been sold to rich countries, according to the advocacy group Global Justice Now, imagine the likely shortages and delays for the rest of the world. (Canada is said to have placed so many preorders that it could end up with 10 doses per capita.)