[WSMDiscuss] Covid-19 vaccine/treatment apartheid endorsed at WTO today, damn it

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Feb 4 22:00:11 CET 2021

Image(Capitalist greed prevails: the North's executive committees of the 
bourgeoisie - to be an absolutely accurate Vulgar Marxist about today's 
events in Geneva - are creating a world where Big Pharma insists on 
Intellectual Property rights on massively-subsidised, 
excessively-expensive commodities that are now in short supply, so that 
/generic vaccines and treatments will remain illegal/, so that this 
virus could keep running around the world forever and forever. How 
short-sighted can these WTO negotiators be.

     At the right, a protest on Tuesday at the U.S. embassy in Pretoria 
by Medicins sans Frontier and local C19 People's Coalition allies.

     We need many more expressions of anger at jerks like Joe Biden, 
Jair Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau who is hoarding five times 
the number of vaccines as Canada has residents, the Japanese, the 
Europeans especially the Swiss, even the hypocrite New Zealanders who 
apparently did not support the IP waiver proposal by India, South 
Africa, Kenya and Swaziland. And as you see below, there's that guy who 
seems to be most committed to defending IP, dating back to his 
opposition to generic AIDS medicines: Bill Gates.

     According to Chinese tv, "Egypt, Nigeria, India, and Venezuela, 
also 'harshly criticized' the European Union for introducing curbs on 
vaccine exports." We have no info yet on whether China and/or Russia 
were in favour of the waiver.

     At least there is one remark of interest, below:

    /patent-defending countries are unlikely to let their guard down on
    intellectual property at the WTO, even during the pandemic. “Almost
    every major pharmaceutical exporter except India has objected to
    this,” Evenett said. “I don’t see that proposal going ahead, unless
    circumstances dramatically change.//"*But that doesn’t mean that
    India and South Africa can’t act unilaterally,*" he added/.)


        /Deutsche Welle /Business

  India, South Africa lose bid to ban COVID vaccine patents

An IP waiver by the WTO would have made it easier for developing 
countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines and dugs. Wealthy countries 
opposed the move, arguing that a suspension of patents would stifle 


India and South Africa want to see vaccine patents lifted temporarily, 
to boost the global supply of vaccines

The World Trade Organization (WTO) on Thursday rejected a proposal by 
and South Africa 
to temporarily suspend intellectual property (IP) rules related to 
COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, which they said would have allowed 
drugmakers in poor countries to start production of effective vaccines 

The two countries had approached the global trade body in October, 
calling on it to waive parts of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects 
of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). The suspension of 
rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of 
undisclosed information would ensure "timely access to affordable 
medical products including vaccines and medicines or to scaling-up of 
research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products 
essential to combat COVID-19," they said.

The proposal was vehemently opposed by wealthy nations, including the 
European Union, the United States and Britain, who said that a ban would 
stifle innovation at pharma companies by robbing them of the incentive 
to make huge investments in research and development. This would be 
especially counterproductive during the current pandemic which needs the 
drugmakers to remain on their toes to deal with a mutating virus 
they argue.

Watch video 07:14

    WHO: 'We need to change that distribution pattern very quickly'

The WTO's decision comes as wealthy countries face criticism for 
cornering billions of COVID shots — many times the size of their 
populations — while leaving poor countries struggling for supplies. 
Experts say the global scramble for vaccines 
or vaccine nationalism, risks prolonging the pandemic.

"We have to recognize that this virus knows no boundaries, it travels 
around the globe and the response to it should also be global. It should 
be based on international solidarity," said Ellen 't Hoen, the director 
of Medicines Law & Policy — a nonprofit campaigning for greater access 
to medicines.

"Many of the large-scale vaccine manufacturers are based in developing 
countries. All the production capacity that exists should be 
exploited…and that does require the sharing of knowhow and the 
technology by those who have it in their hands," she told DW.

Watch video 01:20

    Will the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine only be available in rich countries?

    Not enough production capacity

Supporters of the waiver, which include dozens of developing and 
least-developed countries and NGOs, said the WTO's IP rules were acting 
as a barrier to urgent scale-up of production of vaccines and other much 
needed medical equipment in poor countries.

Those critical of India and South Africa's proposal argue that 
suspension of patents would not address the production and shortage 
issues currently plaguing vaccination drives globally. 

"Demands for a release of patent information relating to vaccines would 
not increase supply by a single dose in the short term because they 
overlook the complexity of vaccine manufacture and ignore the extent to 
which vaccine manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies and developing 
nations already cooperate in order to ramp up vaccination capacities," 
Thomas Cueni, the general director of the International Federation of 
Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), told DW.

"The euphoria over the development of highly effective vaccines has 
somehow created the impression that once a vaccine has been developed, a 
billion doses can roll out of the factories at the push of a button. I 
think we need to be aware of just how complex and difficult vaccine 
manufacturing is," he says.

    Unprecedented collaboration

While the WTO General Council agreed that there was an urgent need to 
ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines and drugs, and that too at 
a swift pace, they could not arrive at a consensus on a waiver.

The pharmaceutical industry says it was witnessing an unprecedented 
level of collaboration among companies, including rival, to ensure a 
safe and swift access to vaccines to people around the globe. They point 
to AstraZeneca's 
deal with the world's largest vaccine maker, India's Serum Institute, 
and Johnson & Johnson teaming up with South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare to 
produce its yet-to-be-approved vaccine. In addition, they said German 
company Bayer has signed up to help produce Germany's CureVac's 
mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine, and Sanofi has agreed to help rival 
Pfizer with the production of its vaccine developed by BioNtech.

Then there is the WHO-backed COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) 
facility, funded through donations, to ensure fair global access to 
coronavirus vaccines. The facility plans to distribute 2 billion doses 
by the end of 2021, but has struggled to gain traction.


*Rich and poor nations clash over patent waivers on lifesaving vaccines*
Toni Waterman in Brussels
CGTN (Chinese state tv)

The world's richest nations have shot down a proposal by India and South 
Africa to temporarily waive patent protections on potentially lifesaving 
coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

According to a Geneva trade official, Canada, the UK, Switzerland and 
Japan voiced their opposition to the waiver during an informal meeting 
of the World Trade Organization's TRIPS Council on Thursday, saying 
there was "no concrete indication" that intellectual property (IP) 
rights have been a barrier to accessing medicines and technologies.

Representatives from the European Union argued that vaccine scarcity 
could be fixed through a combination of licensing and expanding 
manufacturing capacity.

**Supporters of the proposal stressed that manufacturing capacity in the 
"Global South" was being underutilized. They called the vaccine 
shortfall "artificial" and claimed it was part of a scheme to 
"perpetuate monopoly power using IP," said the trade official.

Several countries, including Egypt, Nigeria, India, and Venezuela, also 
"harshly criticized" the European Union for introducing curbs on vaccine 

"The measure was characterized as serious and alarming and indicative 
that those countries that continue to oppose most vociferously the IP 
waiver are indeed the ones that have secretly bought up their way to 
available production and continue to collude with pharmaceutical 
companies under the veil of secrecy," said the trade official.

Last year, as global scientists worked around the clock to develop 
COVID-19 vaccines, officials from the world's richest countries 
vehemently touted equitable access, many promising to supply hundreds of 
millions of doses to the world's poorest nations. They also struck 
multiple bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies – six for the EU 
– and plowed billions of public money into the companies to accelerate 
vaccine development and offset risk.

But now the vaccines have arrived, the gulf between the haves and have 
nots is spreading. According to analysis from The Economist Intelligence 
Unit, rich nations such as the UK, U.S., Israel, and those in the EU are 
likely to achieve "widespread vaccination coverage" by late 2021, but 
the world's poorest countries will not hit that same benchmark until at 
least 2024.

"We cannot continue to engage in endless discussions, while in the real 
world millions of lives are lost to the coronavirus pandemic," the South 
Africa delegate said during the meeting.

On Wednesday, the WHO-led COVAX facility said it hoped to ship 335 
million doses to low- and middle-income countries by the end of June.



  Europe hints at patent grab from Big Pharma

Prominent figures in Germany, Italy and even at the European Council are 
toughening on patents — but are they bluffing?

By Ashleigh Furlong <https://www.politico.eu/author/ashleigh-furlong/> 
and Sarah Anne Aarup <https://www.politico.eu/author/sarah-anne-aarup/>
February 3, 2021 8:50 pm

Ever so softly, European politicians are beginning to voice a once 
unthinkable threat by suggesting they could snatch patents from drug 
companies to make up for massive shortfalls in the supply of coronavirus 

Big Pharma businesses have for many years regarded EU countries as 
unquestioningly loyal allies over intellectual property rights in the 
international trade arena. The EU could always be relied upon to defend 
U.S., Japanese and European drugmakers from poor nations in Africa and 
South Asia that have long wanted the recipe of critical medicines to be 
handed over to generic manufacturers.

But fury over the inability of companies to deliver on contracts amid 
the COVID-19 pandemic means that now even European politicians, from the 
Italian parliament to German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, are 
arguing, albeit cautiously, that patents may no longer be as sacrosanct 
as they once were.

The big question is whether they are just saber-rattling, knowing full 
well that any patent raid would shatter an ultimate commercial taboo and 
risk an exodus of leading companies from Europe over fears about the 
loss of IP.

The European Commission's Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, a 
doyen of French big business, is at pains to stress that there is no 
question of redistributing patents. <https://www.politico.eu/?p=1598714> 
On Wednesday, he insisted that he would lead efforts by Brussels to help 
pharmaceutical companies expand their production sites and cooperate on 
output. “I will make sure they get everything they need,” he said.

That more traditional pro-business stance from Breton will prove 
comforting to pharma executives, who are now facing far more hostile 
messaging from other quarters of the EU.

European Council President Charles Michel last week raised the prospect 
that the EU could adopt “urgent measures” by invoking an emergency 
provision in the EU treaties in response to supply shortfalls. 
Commission officials have pointed to powers in Article 122 of the Treaty 
on the Functioning of the European Union, which ostensibly could be used 
to force vaccine makers to share their patents or other licenses — known 
as compulsory licensing.

Europe's most powerful economy minister, Germany’s Altmaier, who hails 
from the business-friendly center-right Christian Democratic Union, also 
seemed open to the possibility. During atelevision talk show 
last week, Altmaier said compulsory licenses wouldn’t help to increase 
production in the next couple of months because it would take time to 
set up additional production centers. But if cooperation among 
pharmaceutical companies to increase production should fail, he said, he 
“would be willing to talk about coercive measures.”

Adding to the chorus, Alexis Tsipras, former Greek prime minister and 
current leader of the main opposition Syriza party, has called for a 
European patents pool. In an opinion piece for POLITICO 
last week, he warned that depending on a few pharmaceutical companies to 
develop vaccines for the whole of Europe is a “weak” strategy.

      Going nuclear

India and South Africa are pushing for a nuclear option, above and 
beyond compulsory licensing. They want a temporary international waiver 
on the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property 
Rights (TRIPS) for all coronavirus-related medical products, including 
vaccines and treatments.

This is set to come up on the agenda of the informal TRIPS Council 
meeting <https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/trips_e.htm> 
Thursday, but is set to meet almost universal opposition from wealthy 
countries at the World Trade Organization, with the EU, U.K., U.S., and 
Switzerland all coming out against it.

Intriguingly, however, even here, potential cracks are emerging in the 
longer term European position. In early December, the Italian parliament 
passed a resolution calling on the government to support the waiver 

Civil society’s hopes were further boosted during the C20 — a civil 
society meeting that runs parallel to the G20 — from January 25 to 27. 
According to several attendees, Italian officials suggested that the 
Italian G20 presidency this year could support the waiver.

However, other attendees have played down the importance of those 
comments, since they weren't issued at the ministerial level and were 
conciliatory in tone. Indeed, at the official level in Geneva, the 
Italian foreign ministry said Rome's position was still fully in line 
with the European Commission's.

Nevertheless, Brandon Locke, policy and advocacy manager at ONE Campaign 
anti-poverty advocacy group, believes the Italian debate “might just be 
the crack in the ice to sort of get things rolling.”

“The fallout from the AstraZeneca and Pfizer [vaccine] delays are really 
causing a massive shift in how a lot of member states are thinking about 
vaccine supply and the traditional frameworks through which 
manufacturing was supposed to be carried out,” he said.

Tommaso Valletti, former chief competition economist at the Commission, 
has also signaled support for the waiver and the issuing of compulsory 
licenses. "Do we really believe that this would 'jeopardize' future 
innovation? 2.2m people are dead," he tweeted 
<https://twitter.com/TomValletti/status/1356609791527964677> on Tuesday.

However, there remains the formidable hurdle that WTO decisions must 
pass by consensus: Even if Italy did support the waiver, it's unlikely 
to make any difference.

      Push for unilateral action

While unified WTO action is unlikely, the EU, U.S., U.K., Switzerland 
and Japan have offered to help members that want to implement existing 
"flexibilities" in the WTO’s intellectual property agreement, according 
to one Geneva trade official. That brings compulsory licensing into 
play, and countries can implement this individually. Several countries, 
including Germany 
and France 
have already even strengthened legislation to make these measures easier 
to implement.

Usually seen as a last resort, there are very few cases of compulsory 
licensing of medicines. But one could make the case in the context of 
the coronavirus pandemic, explains Ceyhun Pehlivan, a lawyer at 
Linklaters’ Madrid office: Governments could say it's an appropriate 
option if the license holder can't produce enough vaccines or medicines. 
Opponents of compulsory licenses argue they would discourage companies 
from producing these kinds of products in the future, Pehlivan added.

Historically, compulsory licensing has certainly not proved an 
attractive option. Only once in WTO history has a developing country 
lacking production capabilities forced an export license onto a 
patent-holding country. In 2007, Rwanda sought to import antiretroviral 
HIV medicines from Canada — and Ottawa granted the license over a year 
after the initial ask.

There's another problem — possibly the Achilles' heel of the push for IP 
waivers and compulsory licenses: While granting a compulsory license may 
mean that another manufacturer can produce a drug or vaccine without 
being sued by the license holder, it doesn't give them the all-important 
know-how or technology transfer to actually make the drug. These are 
separate from patents and are particularly important for the manufacture 
of complex drugs, such as mRNA vaccines, which up until now, had never 
been made before.

The Geneva-based diplomat pointed to the know-how issue as a significant 
obstacle. “That’s the $1 million question,” the diplomat said.

One possible avenue is the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 
Technology Access Pool 
(C-TAP), which was meant to become a source for open-access knowledge on 
COVID-19 science and technology. However, as yet, not a single 
patent-holding drugmaker has agreed to sign up.

      ‘Guerilla war’ against IP rights

Behind the spat at the WTO, a larger question looms: Is this an attempt 
to permanently override aspects of intellectual property rights that 
some countries disagree with?

“You can essentially see it as a play by two countries, India and South 
Africa, who never really liked the current intellectual property rights 
rules of the WTO,” said Simon Evenett, an economics professor at St. 
Gallen University in Switzerland. “I see it in a broader 25-year-long 
context of this sort of guerilla war against these rules.”

But for now, patent-defending countries are unlikely to let their guard 
down on intellectual property at the WTO, even during the pandemic.

“Almost every major pharmaceutical exporter except India has objected to 
this,” Evenett said. “I don’t see that proposal going ahead, unless 
circumstances dramatically change.

"But that doesn’t mean that India and South Africa can’t act 
unilaterally," he added.


  Road to Hell Paved with Good Intentions

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram <http://www.ipsnews.net/author/jomo-kwame-sundaram/>

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb 3 2021 (IPS) - Access to COVID-19 vaccines 
for many developing countries and most of their people will have to wait 
as the powerful and better off secure earlier access regardless of need 
or urgency. More profits, by manufacturing scarcity, will surely cause 
even more loss of both lives and livelihoods.

*Good intentions not enough*
To induce private efforts to develop and distribute vaccines, the WHO 
initiated COVAX <https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax> 
to ensure more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. However, interest 
by vaccine companies has been limited, while some governments – 
especially from better-off upper middle-income countries – pursue other 

COVAX has been co-led with GAVI <https://www.gavi.org/>, the Vaccine 
Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI 
<https://cepi.net/>). Buoyed by their earlier success with advance 
market commitments 
<https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/gavi-covax-amc-explained> (AMC), they 
have extended the same approach in very different circumstances.

AMC was originally conceived 
to induce the development of vaccines for ‘neglected diseases’. Such 
infectious diseases remain threats in poor countries and among poor 
people. Hence, prospective sales revenue was believed to be too small 
for needed investments by profit-seeking vaccine companies.

By guaranteeing and subsidising sales, the AMC effectively promises the 
vaccine developer to make the research and development effort 
profitable, typically with early payments and subsidies to enhance the 

*No one size fits all*
In the Covid-19 pandemic context, however, the COVAX AMC is not a ‘white 
knight’ coming to the rescue of an orphaned, typically tropical disease. 
Instead, it competes with other buyers, mostly of greater means.

To put it bluntly, the Covid-19 pandemic context is quite different 
from the ‘neglected diseases’ problem which the AMC was conceived to 
address, i.e., contemporary Western R&D efforts presumed to be driven 
primarily, if not exclusively by the prospect of profits.

The highly infectious ‘aerosol-borne’ virus quickly achieved a global 
reach. Apparently more likely to be lethal with advancing age, mass 
vulnerability to infection ensured a broad, inclusive, international 
market for Covid-19 vaccines from the outset.

Recognising the extent and impact of the pandemic threat, vaccine 
developers expect to sell their vaccines very profitably 
They made advance sales to many rich-country governments, rather than, 
or even while committing to COVAX. Unsurprisingly in these 
circumstances, the COVAX AMC approach has not worked well, let alone 

The companies did not require AMC advance purchases to start their 
efforts. Expecting the WHO to protect their interests, participating 
developing country governments, mainly of upper-middle income economies, 
have generally not worked together to push for further price moderation.

*COVAX subverted*
Advance Covid-19 vaccine purchases 
<https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4750> by many rich country 
governments are not only greatly in excess of their population 
requirements, but also not made in a transparent manner conducive to 
improving equity.

Unsure of the efficacy and effectiveness of the often still experimental 
vaccines, some booked, paid for and now demand far more than needed by 
their populations. Thus, COVAX has been subverted by rich country 
government actions.

Ironically, instead of protecting and promoting the interests of the 
poor, the public interest and the common good, the COVAX AMC has served 
to set floor prices. Arguably, COVAX has ensured profits for vaccine 
companies without addressing the ‘only money talks’ problem and 
competitive ‘vaccine nationalism’.

To ensure a ‘people’s vaccine’ available to all, Acharya and Reddy have 
public financing to develop or buy over vaccine formulas. This can 
ensure patentable and other relevant information is freely shared, 
enabling generic vaccine producers to greatly increase supply at much 
lower prices.

As rich country governments have already paid much to accelerate vaccine 
development, they can more easily secure and share the thus far 
undisclosed information needed to greatly and affordably scale up 
generic vaccine output.

As vaccine developers do not really expect much revenue from selling 
vaccines to the poor, such ‘generosity’ would cost them little, while 
earning them and the enabling governments priceless appreciation and 
goodwill in the process.

*Way out*
The best way forward now involves approving the TRIPS waiver at the WTO, 
which the Trump administration, the EU and some allies, such as Brazil, 
have stubbornly blocked.

The TRIPS waiver – sought by developing countries led by South Africa, 
India and Pakistan – seeks to temporarily suspend several TRIPS 
provisions on patents, design and protection of undisclosed information.

The Biden administration has shown renewed commitment to multilateralism 
by re-joining the World Health Organization (WHO). It can demonstrate 
leadership by not only lifting the US embargo on exports of vaccines, 
vital medicines and equipment, but also advocating strongly for the 
TRIPS waiver proposal at the WTO.

US taxpayers have already spent many billions to accelerate private 
vaccine development and distribution. Vaccines for the world can be 
greatly increased, at little additional cost, by working with the rest 
of the world, as Chinese researchers did by sharing the virus’ genome 
sequence with the world within a fortnight of its discovery over a year ago.


  Indian Groups Demand NZ Supports WTO Vaccine Waiver

*Thursday, 4 February 2021, 9:47 am*
*Press Release: Joint Press Release 

A group of 36 Indian health organisations and 50 respected individuals 
has sent a letter to the NZ Ambassador to India, calling on the NZ 
Government to support the proposed waiver of World Trade Organisation 
(WTO) intellectual property rules to expand access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The appeal, which has been forwarded to the Prime Minister, is penned by 
The Delhi Network of Positive People, a group advocating for the rights 
of people with HIV/AIDS, and highlights how WTO patent monopolies 
preventing competition and local manufacturing contributed to a ten year 
delay in access to life saving HIV medicines for people in developing 
countries, leading to millions of unnecessary deaths.

"It is now clear that the longer the virus circulates in unprotected 
populations, the more likely it is that mutations will occur. These 
mutations can - including countries opposing the waiver proposal - and 
prolong the pandemic. In the face of such a crisis, the New Zealand 
silence is untenable and self-defeating", the letter states.

This follows another open letter sent by 42 New Zealand organisations 
and individuals also calling on the Prime Minister to support a 
"people’s vaccine" by supporting the waiver.

"Prime Minister Ardern has called for 2021 to be the year of the 
vaccine, but only one in 10 people in low-income developing countries 
will be able to access a vaccine this year", said It’s Our Future 
spokesperson Edward Miller.

"Supporting the WTO waiver will allow vaccine manufacturers in 
developing countries - already responsible for producing billions doses 
of various other vaccines - to contribute to the global effort to stop 
the Covid health and economic crises."

"The World Health Organisation has warned that vaccine inequality could 
cost the global economy US $9.2 trillion; much of that is income stolen 
from the pockets of the poorest communities on the planet"."

"Tomorrow at the TRIPS Council meeting, New Zealand has an opportunity 
to get off the fence and support the kind of universal vaccine access 
that Prime Minister Ardern has been advocating."



  Bill Gates, Big Pharma and entrenching the vaccine apartheid

Simon Allison <https://mg.co.za/author/simon-allison/>
30 Jan 2021
The pandemic has been good to billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. In 
2020, the Microsoft cofounder added $18-billion to his fortune, which 
now stands at a cool $131-billion. (Photo by Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)

Gates, Big Pharma and entrenching the vaccine 

In October 2020, diplomats from South Africa and India approached the 
World Trade Organisation (WTO) with a revolutionary proposal.

Together, the two countries argued that countries should be allowed to 
ignore any patents related to Covid-19 vaccines, for the duration of the 
pandemic. In other words: everyone should be allowed to manufacture the 
vaccine, without penalty.

In their official communication, the countries said: “As new 
diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there 
are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available 
promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet 
global demand.”

Just a few weeks later, Pfizer and BioNTech announced the first 
successful phase three trials for a Covid-19 vaccine, followed swiftly 
by Moderna and AstraZeneca.

In developing countries, jubilation at the prospect of a swift end to 
the devastating pandemic turned quickly into fear and anger, as it 
became clear that vaccines would only be made available to the rich, 
with little thought to equitable distribution. Canada, the worst 
offender, has pre-ordered so many vaccines that it will be able to 
vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is 
four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

The vaccines that have been made available to the developing world are 
either untested — such as the Chinese and Russian vaccines, for which 
insufficient clinical trial data has been released — or expensive. South 
Africa has ordered 1.5-million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but 
will pay more than double 
what the EU is paying per dose.

The EU says that it is entitled to a lower price because it invested in 
the vaccine’s development — nevermind that the AstraZeneca vaccine was 
literally tested on the bodies of South Africans 
who volunteered to be part of the clinical trial in Johannesburg.

In lower income countries, the situation is even worse. As of 18 
January, 39-million vaccine doses had been administered in the world’s 
50 richest countries, compared to just 25 individual doses in low-income 

It appears that South Africa and India were right. Under the current 
rules, the vaccine cannot be made quickly or cheaply enough to meet 
global demand, which vaccines are only going to those countries that can 
afford it. This is a “catastrophic moral failure”, said the head of the 
World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Some 
activists have described the situation as a “vaccine apartheid”.

    Nor has South Africa and India’s proposal received support from the
    most influential non-state actor in global public health: Bill Gates

Nonetheless, the proposal for a patent waiver has been repeatedly 
at the WTO by wealthier countries including the European Union, the 
United Kingdom, US and Switzerland; countries which, as Reuters wryly 
are “all home to major pharmaceutical companies”. They also all enjoy 
early access to the vaccine.

Nor has South Africa and India’s proposal received support from the most 
influential non-state actor in global public health: Bill Gates.

The pandemic has been good to Gates. In 2020, the Microsoft cofounder 
added $18-billion 
his fortune, which now stands at a cool $131-billion (the annual GDP of 
Ethiopia, a country of 112-million people, is $96-billion). He is the 
fourth-richest person in the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has since its inception in 2000 
spent more than $54-billion 
combating diseases such as polio and malaria and bolstering the health 
systems of developing countries. It funds everything from governments to 
civil society organisations to health journalism outlets, which means it 
has an enormous say in how health policy is shaped and communicated. It 
also contributes 12% of the WHO’s total budget.

But despite Gates’ stated commitment to an equitable distribution of the 
Covid vaccine, he is refusing to back South Africa and India’s calls for 
a waiver on patents.

This should not come as a surprise: the Gates Foundation has 
historically been opposed to efforts to reform intellectual property 
protections for pharmaceutical companies — putting it at odds with other 
public health NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) — and has in 
fact lobbied for developing countries to impose even stronger 
protections for drug companies’ patents. This is perhaps because Gates’ 
own fortune is built on intellectual property, specifically the 
copy­rights and patents associated with Windows and Microsoft.

In response to a question from the /Mail & Guardian/, Gates argued that 
lifting patents would not make any real difference. “At this point, 
changing the rules wouldn’t make any additional vaccines available.” 
That’s because, he claims, there are only a handful of manufacturers in 
the world with the necessary capacity to make the vaccines, and these 
are all at capacity already.

This claim is only partially true, as MSF vaccine pharmacist Alain 
Alsalhani told the /M&G/. Highly specialised manufacturers are needed to 
make traditional vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca jab, because this 
involves isolating and replicating parts of the virus itself.

Only 43 companies are on the WHO’s approved list of vaccine 
manufacturers, and it could take years to set up new factories that meet 
the regulations.

But the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are based on manipulating messenger 
RNA (mRNA), which appears to be significantly easier to manufacture. 
Moderna’s vaccines are being produced by Lonza, a Swiss chemicals 
company with no previous experience of vaccine manufacture. This 
suggests that the pool of companies that could make the vaccine is much 
higher — there are 10 000 companies in India alone that manufacture 
medicines, and a proportion of these could potentially be involved in 
the manufacture of mRNA vaccines.

“If this assumption is verified, and we hope we will have more detailed 
analysis [soon], then we are changing the story here,” said Alsalhani.

Even then, Alsalhani warns that waiving patent protections is no miracle 
fix, because the technical challenges are still considerable — 
especially if the big pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to share 
their processes. Moderna, for example, has said it will not enforce its 
patent rights; but Lonza, which actually makes the vaccine, “won’t talk 
to us” about how it’s actually done, he said.

South Africa and India are continuing their fight at the WTO. But with 
the world’s most powerful countries ranged against them, and without the 
support of Bill Gates — the single most influential unelected individual 
in public health— the chances of success are as slim.


  A global vaccine apartheid is unfolding. People’s lives must come
  before profit

Winnie Byanyima <https://www.theguardian.com/profile/winnie-byanyima>

The poorest countries are missing out on adequate doses of vaccines – 
and the health implications should concern us all

Covid-19 mural in Barcelona
‘We can and must act now to change the otherwise catastrophic trajectory 
of this pandemic.’ Covid-19 mural in Barcelona. Photograph: Matthias 
Oesterle/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Fri 29 Jan 2021 07.45 GMT


Nine months ago world leaders were queueing up to declare any Covid-19 
vaccine a global public good. Today we are witness to a vaccine 
apartheid that is only serving the interests of powerful and profitable 
pharmaceutical corporations while costing us the quickest and least 
harmful route out of this crisis.

I am sickened by news that South Africa 
a country whose HIV history should have taught us all the most appalling 
life-costing consequences of allowing pharmaceutical corporations to 
protect their medicine monopolies, has had to pay more than double the 
price paid by the European Union for the AstraZeneca vaccine for far 
fewer doses than it actually needs. Like so many other low- and 
middle-income countries, South Africa is today facing a vaccine 
landscape of depleted supply where it is purchasing power, not 
suffering, that will secure the few remaining doses.


Nine out of 10 people living in the poorest countries are poised to miss 
out on a vaccine this year. Production delays put even this figure in 
doubt. Unjustifiably high prices block access and threaten to push more 
countries into an ever-deeper debt crisis. If we continue to pursue the 
vaccine model we have, we will fail to get this pandemic under control 
for years to come.

Failure to change course will come at the cost of millions of lives and 
livelihoods around the world; to our progress on tackling poverty; to 
businesses, including those represented here at the World Economic Forum 
this week; and to our collective public health and economic security. 
Make no mistake, the costs of vaccine inequality 
will not be confined to those living in the poorest countries.

The longer the virus is allowed to continue in a context of patchy 
immunity, the greater the chance of mutations that could render the 
vaccines we have and the vaccines some people in rich countries have 
already received, less effective or ineffective.

'We are worried': Indians hopeful but anxious as vaccination drive begins
Read more

Research commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce published 
this week predicts that delays to vaccine access in poorer nations will 
also cost the global economy an estimated $9tn 
(£6.6tn), with nearly half of this absorbed in wealthy countries such as 
the US, Canada, Germany and the UK.

We cannot rewind the past nine months or the failure so far of 
governments to enact their pledge to make Covid-19 vaccines global 
public goods. But we can and must act now to change the otherwise 
catastrophic trajectory of this pandemic. The vaccine science, knowhow 
and technology, paid for in large part by more than $100bn of taxpayers’ 
money, can no longer be treated as the private property of 
pharmaceutical corporations. Instead, these must be shared openly, via 
the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 technology access pool 
so that more manufacturers can be brought on board and a global plan put 
in action to scale up vaccine production.

To clear the pathway for this, governments must also urgently back the 
proposal tabled to the World Trade Organization to temporarily waive 
intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests 
until the world has reached critically needed herd immunity and this 
pandemic is under control.

Almost every business on the planet has had to step away from business 
as usual as a result of this pandemic. It is in all our interests that 
pharmaceutical corporations now do the same. I invite governments and 
business leaders to join the growing call for a “people’s vaccine” and 
together chart a new path that can secure enough vaccines, tests and 
treatments for all people in all nations.

• Winnie Byanyima is executive director of UNAids and a UN 
undersecretary general


/*Foreign Affairs*/

*The Folly of Hoarding Knowledge in the COVID-19 Age*

*Let Vaccine Producers in Poor Countries Help End the Pandemic*

*By Tahir Amin 

January 29, 2021

By now, it has become clear that the means to end the COVID-19 pandemic 
will reach people in poor countries far later than they will get to 
people in wealthy ones. Only one of the 29 poorest countries in the 
world—Guinea in West Africa—has begun vaccinations, and it has so far 
managed to immunize just 55 people 
Half of the planned 2021 supplies of the leading vaccine candidates have 
already been gobbled up <https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4750> by a 
small contingent of wealthy nations, including Australia, Canada, Japan, 
the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Together, 
these countries account for just 14 percent of the global population. At 
least a fifth of the world’s people will not get access to COVID-19 
vaccines until 2022, and many low-income countries will have to wait 
until 2023 or 2024 for full immunization. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 
the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), warned on 
January 25 that vaccine inequity could cost the global economy $9.2 

Ensuring that billions of people get swift access to COVID-19 vaccines 
was always going to be difficult, especially as many national 
governments have hoarded supplies. But the task has been made even 
harder by another kind of hoarding—of intellectual property and 
technology. Western governments and pharmaceutical companies could agree 
to loosen or temporarily suspend intellectual property protections and 
transfer technology to manufacturers in the developing world. Doing so 
would speed the production of more affordable and effective vaccines for 
broad distribution. But wealthy countries and their pharmaceutical 
giants have been unwilling to take this step, clinging instead to an 
old, quasi-colonial economic order that disadvantages poor countries—and 
threatens to prolong the pandemic.


Ten of the 13 leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates have been or are being 
developed by pharmaceutical companies in wealthy countries. These 
companies have mostly limited the manufacture of the vaccines to 
partners and suppliers in the West, leaving a number of potential 
producers in poorer countries in the cold. More broadly sharing 
intellectual property and technology with producers in the developing 
world could help significantly increase production of vaccines and 
reduce vaccine inequity. But only a few Western pharmaceutical companies 
have agreed to such technology transfers: U.S. giant Johnson & Johnson 
has licensed its vaccine for production by Aspen Pharmacare in South 
Africa, while the British-Swedish multinational AstraZeneca and the U.S. 
company Novavax 
entered into agreements with the Serum Institute of India.

*Stay informed.*

In-depth analysis delivered weekly.

There should be many more of these sorts of arrangements, since poor 
countries have the capacity to ramp up production. At least 40 other 
potential manufacturers in 14 developing countries already form a 
network <https://www.dcvmn.org/> that makes around 3.5 billion doses per 
year of various types of vaccines. But last May, Pfizer’s CEO 
dismissed as “nonsense” and “dangerous” the WHO’s efforts to encourage 
companies to voluntarily share their technology and intellectual 
property in the interest of making more broadly available vaccines, 
treatments, and other necessary products in the fight against COVID-19. 
No major pharmaceutical company has yet offered any contribution to the 
so-called technology access pool that the WHO set up to combat the pandemic.

This unfortunate dynamic compelled India and South Africa—backed by 
Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, and Pakistan—to cosponsor a proposal 
in October asking the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive, for the 
duration of the pandemic, the trade body’s treaty on protecting 
intellectual property. The proposal won the further support of around 
100 mostly low-or middle-income countries.

The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property 
Rights <https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/27-trips_01_e.htm>, 
also known as TRIPS, requires the organization’s 164 member states to 
enforce most intellectual property protections for vaccines, trade 
secrets, diagnostic kits, ventilators, and other medical equipment. 
Supporters of the proposal argued that waiving these protections would 
allow manufacturers all over the world to more rapidly meet global 
demand for vaccines. If wealthy countries consented to the waiver, poor 
countries would probably not have to wait until 2023 or 2024 to 
inoculate the majority of their populations. The waiver would also help 
ensure that the world has a reserve supply of effective doses if some 
vaccine candidates prove to be ineffective, as is likely.

The clash between wealthy countries and poor ones over the right to 
scientific knowledge is not new.

But the United Kingdom, the United States, and the member states of the 
European Union—countries that are incidentally hoarding COVID-19 vaccine 
supplies and technology—opposed 
request, and major pharmaceutical companies 
also voiced objections. They claim that the waiver is too broad, that it 
does not acknowledge the potential lack of technical capacity or raw 
materials in poor countries, and that the WTO’s current intellectual 
property regime already provides sufficient flexibility in the case of 
public health emergencies. This resistance persists despite the fact 
that the European Union and the United Kingdom are now embroiled in a 
<https://www.ft.com/content/d814b2dc-a803-4680-b8c4-ffa2a4c370ad> over a 
shortfall in supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine. WTO member states will 
meet again in early February to discuss the matter ahead of the general 
meeting of the trade body in March, when the proposal will likely be 
rejected or severely limited.

The clash between wealthy countries and poor ones over the right to 
scientific knowledge and technology is not new. In the early 1970s—a 
time when many new nation-states were emerging from disintegrating 
European empires—the UN General Assembly resolved to declare a “New 
International Economic Order <http://www.un-documents.net/s6r3201.htm>,” 
in which wealthy countries would help formerly colonized ones become 
more self-reliant through the transfer of technology. Proponents of the 
scheme imagined such transfers as a form of reparation for decades of 
imperial plunder. But the wealthy states never accepted or acted upon 
the resolution.

Instead, they did the opposite. Edmund Pratt, then CEO of Pfizer, feared 
that manufacturers in developing countries would compete with companies 
like his for these new markets. Along with other business leaders, he 
encouraged U.S. officials in the 1970s and early 1980s to integrate the 
defense of intellectual property into U.S trade policy. The Reagan 
administration then rallied the European and Japanese governments to 
this cause, helping to place intellectual property at the heart of the 
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This agreement required member 
states to enforce intellectual property rights in the multilateral 
trading system for the first time, even when many developing countries 
didn’t maintain such requirements. Although this deal protected the 
investments that wealthy countries and their companies made in 
scientific, technological, and cultural goods, it also prevented low- 
and middle-income countries from competing on an even footing in the 
burgeoning knowledge economy. The deal became formalized as the TRIPS 
Agreement in 1995 when wealthy countries pushed it through the WTO over 
the objections of lower-income countries, which were eventually 
railroaded into signing. Since then—and at the behest of their private 
sectors—Japan, the United States, and European countries have also 
pursued bilateral free trade agreements with many developing countries 
to further strengthen intellectual property protections.


To oppose the proposal before the WTO, wealthy countries draw on the 
same arguments and claims they used to set up the current international 
intellectual property regime. In October, theBritish government 
argued that intellectual property protections won’t actually prevent 
access to vaccines, treatments, or related technologies. But that is 
demonstrably false: these rules have invariably driven up prices of 
important medications and put them out of reach of the world’s poorest. 
When the HIV/AIDS epidemic was reaching its peak in the 1990s, millions 
of people died in the developing world in part because the necessary 
drugs cost an astronomical $10,000 per person per year. Nearly a decade 
later—and after weathering lawsuits from 39 pharmaceutical companies 
South Africa was able to remove some patent barriers. Prices for 
antiretroviral drugs dropped significantly, and many more people 
received treatment.

Proponents of the TRIPS Agreement restrictions, including governments, 
pharmaceutical companies, and even the editorial board of /The Wall 
Street Journal/ 
claim that the existing order is adaptable enough as it is. They point 
to flexibilities in the WTO rules that allow member states to override 
patents by issuing what is known as a “compulsory license” in the case 
of a public health emergency—permitting a manufacturer in the developing 
world, for instance, to produce a vaccine or treatment patented by a 
company in the West. But compulsory licenses, while useful, aren’t 
conducive to situations that demand swift action. The process for 
securing such a license is laborious: in the case of COVID-19 vaccines, 
for instance, manufacturers would first have to show they attempted to 
negotiate a voluntary license with the relevant pharmaceutical company, 
which has proven hard to accomplish in all but a few cases because the 
patent holders can simply refuse or delay the process. Even when such 
licenses are granted, they tend to limit the number of countries to 
which the generic manufacturer in a developing country can supply the 
product. Generic manufacturers also would have to secure a separate 
license for each product they sought to make. Developing countries are 
usually wary of issuing compulsory licenses because they fear that 
wealthy countries, pressured by their pharmaceutical companies, might 
levy trade sanctions in retaliation or lodge a case at the WTO Dispute 
Settlement Body claiming that the developing country has not correctly 
adhered to the rules of the TRIPS Agreement.

Intellectual property rules have invariably put important medications 
out of reach of the world’s poorest.

Those defending the current system also contend that low- and 
middle-income countries do not have the technical capacity to 
manufacture and distribute vaccines at scale, especially ones that 
depend on sophisticated mRNA (messenger RNA) technology, such as those 
from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. But this argument rehearses a tired 
trope, the likes of which have been disproven in the past. In the 1980s, 
a Western firm refused to transfer vaccine technology to the Indian 
company Shantha Biotechnics, claiming that Shantha’s scientists would 
not be able to understand the required recombinant technology to produce 
the vaccines. Shantha subsequently went on to develop its own 
recombinant vaccine for hepatitis B 
<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110116/>, which became 
available for $1 per dose and enabled UNICEF and other organizations to 
undertake low-cost mass vaccinations. Indeed, the Indian company Gennova 
has already entered into phase I/II clinical trials with its own mRNA 
COVID-19 vaccine. Alternative manufacturing capability for sophisticated 
COVID-19 vaccines very likely exists in the developing world.

The most familiar argument against the suspension of intellectual 
property rules is that such a dismissal of patent protections will kill 
private innovation and hurt future investment in new vaccines and 
technologies. But this claim, too, is unsound. Taxpayer and nonprofit 
dollars <https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55170756> have significantly 
financed most of the leading COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the 
development of the basic science 
underlying the mRNA platform. Pharmaceutical companies stepped up to the 
plate only after the public and nonprofit sectors had assumed the bulk 
of the risk. Now, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are poised to rake in $32 
in COVID-19 vaccine sales in 2021 alone—and much more if mRNA platforms 
become more prevalent in the future. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna may 
well be unwilling to enter into any technology transfer agreement 
precisely because they hope to cash in on mRNA technology. It would be a 
catastrophic moral failure—and a failure of market policy—to allow 
private interests to seek profits from publicly funded technology while 
millions perish.


In April 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, Ursula von der 
Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said that a future 
COVID-19 vaccine 
<https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ac_20_749> would 
need to reach “every single corner of the world” at an affordable price: 
“This vaccine will be our universal, common good.”

Nine months later, those promises ring hollow. The governments of 
wealthy countries need to show leadership by encouraging pharmaceutical 
companies to work in the interest of the “universal, common good.” 
Governments could require their pharmaceutical companies to enter into 
technology transfer agreements with at least three suppliers in the 
“global South”—or those governments can support the WTO proposal put 
forward by India and South Africa to suspend intellectual property 
rights during the pandemic. Failing to do either will only lengthen this 

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.openspaceforum.net/pipermail/wsm-discuss/attachments/20210204/f7f703de/attachment.htm>

More information about the WSM-Discuss mailing list