Saturday, December 19, 2020

A peoples’ vaccine or a vaccine for profit?

 If one listens to the media, the pharmaceutical corporations has become one of the most altruistic industries ever, foregoing bountiful profits to protect humanity from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet they and the many governments that advance their interests have refused to suspend their intellectual property rights to the vaccine discovers. They are defending their patents.

The U.S.  insists that IP protection is best to ensure “swift delivery.”

 The EU claims there is “no indication that IPR issues have been a genuine barrier … to Covid-19-related medicines and technologies” 

And the U.K. dismisses the proposal as “an extreme measure to address an unproven problem.”

The Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations’ diriector-general claims it “would jeopardize future medical innovation, making us more vulnerable to other diseases.” 

The Wall Street Journal denounced it as “A Global Covid Vaccine Heist,” warning “their effort would harm everyone, including the poor.”

As Shakespeare remarked, it is a case of them protesting too much.

We are told that voluntary mechanisms should suffice, and that the public-private COVAX initiative ensures fair and equitable access.

But the accepted facts of the situation is that the drug-making companies cannot  produce enough vaccines, safely and affordably, for everyone as expeditiously as they would like to tell us. It maybe 2024 before sufficient supplies of vaccine will have been produced to protect everybody. Nine out of 10 people in poor countries will miss out on a vaccine in 2021, according to Oxfam. 

 Not a single major drug company had joined WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to encourage industry contributions of IP, technologies and data to scale up worldwide sharing and production of all such needs.

The drug manufacturers PR boast that a few companies have “voluntarily” given up some IPR, albeit only temporarily.

 Moderna has promised to license its Covid-19 related patents to other vaccine manufacturers, and not enforce its own patents. But their pledge is limited, allowing it to enforce its patents “post pandemic,” as defined by Moderna.

AstraZeneca has announced that its vaccine, researched at Oxford University, will be available at cost in some locations, but only until July 2021. 

We should not be at all surprised for the simple fact is that pharmaceutical firms are in business to make as big a return on their investment as possible. The focus of their scientists may well be driven by a commitment to preserving human health and wellness, but charity does not outweigh their share-holders' sense of business.

As  Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, explains,

“No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket. But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 for years to come.”

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