[WSMDiscuss] more critique of Covid-19 vaccine/treatment IP imperialism Re: Covid-19 vaccine/treatment apartheid endorsed at WTO today, damn it
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Feb 5 07:03:00 CET 2021
(/Independent OnLine/ journalist Shannon Ebrahim's key points:
* China has voiced its support for the proposal and Nigeria’s Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala, who is selected to be the next director-general of
the WTO, is also supportive of the waiver. The WHO, Unaids, Unitaid
and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights are also
fully in support of the waiver.
* the following countries are among those who have been blocking the
process so far: US, EU, UK, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Canada.
* In June last year Remdesivir was priced at $2340 for a five-day
treatment course, but research has shown that the drug could be
manufactured at $9 a treatment...the corporation received $70
million in public funding to develop the drug.
* All the main Western vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer-BioNtech,
Moderna, and AstraZeneca – received more than $5 billion in public
funding to develop their vaccines.
* Ninety-six percent of the doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine have
been bought by the West, while 100% of the Moderna vaccines are
exclusively going to rich countries.
* only one in 10 people in 70 low-income countries are likely to get
vaccinated this year.
Other allies to the fore: the governments of Pakistan, Mozambique and
Bolivia signed on as co-sponsors of the waiver proposal.
"Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, argued
in November that the best strategy against the virus was
geopolitical cooperation -- not competition. Yet her ongoing fiasco
with AstraZeneca has exposed the EU's hypocrisy -- as the EU
threatened to invoke the same emergency provisions on behalf of
Europeans that the EU are currently opposing for citizens of the
Another report on the vanity of insider activists - who seem to be
well-meaning /jam-maker/ lobbyists but without too many battle-hardened
"Activists hoped that recent events might cause the European Union
and the U.S. to rethink their earlier opposition. The EU has moved
to put vaccine export controls in place out of concern over its own
vaccine shortfalls — a situation that lower-income countries
believed might make the bloc more sympathetic to their position. And
activists, encouraged by promises from new U.S. President Joe
Biden’s administration to let no boundaries get in the way of
American vaccine access, were hopeful he might bring the same
attitude to international access. But while there are reports that
the EU and the U.S. expressed more openness to discussions on the
issue, both continue to obstruct the proposal."
Of course, U.S. and EU politicians are obstructing the world's attack on
Big Pharma profiteering: that's what leaders of imperialist countries
are hard-wired to do.
But it's also important to be frank about the weakness of countervailing
forces: /unlike 20 years ago when there was extraordinary pressure from
AIDS treatment activists and healthcare workers that led to a 180-degree
opposite outcome in the WTO TRIPS, /with generic AIDS medicines are so
widely available now that life expectancy has soared - from 52 in 2005
to 65 today in South Africa alone - today's vaccine-rights activists
have been practically invisible.
That set-piece protest in Pretoria on Tuesday - which as far as I can
tell only got a tiny bit of Twitter
attention and a mention in Ebrahim's /IOL /column today - was extremely
weak; albeit under conditions of social distancing, it was not easy to
get kombis out to these distant embassies. Still, there's a U.S.
consulate in Sandton and it's been targeted scores of times by
anti-imperialists. Why so little street heat from the C19 People's
Coalition and their allies? We can express moral outrage online as much
as we like, but there really needs to be much more serious campaigning
and visibility on this issue - /which won't go away, will it, not until
Covid-19 has completely ebbed./)
Time to prioritise lives, not patents
Move away from global vaccine apartheid towards public good in all
* The Mercury
* 5 Feb 2021
* SHANNON EBRAHIM
* Ebrahim is the group foreign editor for Independent Media CANCER
DOCTORS without Borders has called on all governments to support the
request to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the intellectual
property (IP) waiver for all countries until herd immunity is achieved.
This proposal was made to the WTO by India and South Africa in October,
to allow all countries to neither grant nor enforce patents relating to
Covid-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and technology for the duration of
Usually, the 164-member WTO has to agree by consensus unless they agree
to proceed to a vote, which is exceptional. Currently, 100 WTO member
states – the vast majority – support the proposal put forward by India
and South Africa, which has been cosponsored by eSwatini, Kenya,
Mozambique, Pakistan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Egypt and Mongolia.
China has voiced its support for the proposal and Nigeria’s Ngozi
Okonjo-Iweala, who is selected to be the next director-general of the
WTO, is also supportive of the waiver. The WHO, Unaids, Unitaid and the
African Commission on Human and People’s Rights are also fully in
support of the waiver. It is a handful of rich countries who are
blocking the waiver to date, although yesterday the next round of TRIPS
Council negotiations on the India-South Africa proposal began.
According to Doctors without Borders, the following countries are among
those who have been blocking the process so far: US, EU, UK,
Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Canada.
The irony is that many of these countries have far more vaccines than
they need (some have enough to vaccinate their populations five times
over) while they are preventing those that need the Covid-19 vaccines
the most, from getting it.
The reason that these countries put forward for blocking the waiver is
that they don’t want to allow broad exceptions on intellectual property
rights even in an exceptional crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
They prefer voluntary agreements between countries and pharmaceutical
companies. But such agreements would involve lengthy bureaucratic
processes, if they can be agreed on at all, while millions of people are
dying from Covid-19 worldwide in what is a global health emergency.
WTO members can seek a waiver from certain obligations on WTO treaties
in exceptional circumstances if members agree. They can choose not to
enforce intellectual property rights on patents, industrial designs,
copyright and trade secrets. This was done after much haggling two
decades ago when a TRIPS exemption was agreed to in order to fight HIV/Aids.
Today’s pandemic is claiming far more lives and overwhelming health
systems in most countries, which makes achievement of the waiver urgent.
On Tuesday, civil society organisations in Tshwane and Delhi delivered
letters to the ambassadors of some of the developed countries who are
blocking the waiver, in an attempt to apply pressure on these countries
to change their position for the good of all the countries of the world.
The tragedy will be that if the waiver does not succeed, the virus will
keep mutating, and spreading even to those countries that are blocking
the waiver, and the rolled-out vaccines may not even be highly effective
for new variants of the virus which emerge over time.
What it comes down to is the greed of the pharmaceutical companies that
stand to make millions off Covid drugs and vaccines, and these companies
have made no attempt to ensure broad access to life-saving products.
Gilead, for example, is the patent holder for Remdesivir – one of the
only drugs approved to treat Covid-19. The way the drug has been
licensed, it excludes half of the world’s population from benefiting
from price-lowering generics.
In June last year Remdesivir was priced at $2340 for a five-day
treatment course, but research has shown that the drug could be
manufactured at $9 a treatment. Such elevated prices are indefensible
when the corporation received $70 million in public funding to develop
All the main Western vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna,
and AstraZeneca – received more than $5 billion in public funding to
develop their vaccines.
Ninety-six percent of the doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine have been
bought by the West, while 100% of the Moderna vaccines are exclusively
going to rich countries.
The tragedy is that no one is safe until we are all safe, but only one
in 10 people in 70 low-income countries are likely to get vaccinated
It is time for the developed countries to move away from what has become
a global vaccine apartheid, and instead play a responsible leadership
role to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are a global public good. The
consequences of not doing so will be that the pandemic is not brought
under control for years to come.
Rich countries block waiver on COVID-19 vaccine IP
/By Andrew Green <https://www.devex.com/news/authors/1439357> // 04
Rich countries continued to block a proposal from South Africa and India
to waive intellectual property protections on COVID-19
<https://www.devex.com/focus/covid-19> drugs and vaccines during a new
round of talks Thursday at the World Trade Organization
Companies have been able to leverage global intellectual property and
patent protections to essentially exercise monopolies over new COVID-19
treatments and vaccines. Activists argue that this is one of the primary
reasons for the mounting imbalance in vaccine distribution.
*At WTO, a battle for access to COVID-19 vaccines
A proposal introduced by South Africa and India seeks to waive
intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines and other
technologies. Devex looks at why some high-income countries are trying
to stop it from being passed.
South Africa and India introduced the waiver proposal in October calling
for those protections to be suspended until herd immunity is achieved,
drawing the support of more than 100 countries. But nations home to
major pharmaceutical companies, such as the United States, the United
Kingdom, and Switzerland, have repeatedly delayed it from advancing
beyond a council that discusses trade-related restrictions. They argue
that the exemptions would not actually help, since many countries lack
the manufacturing capacity to produce the vaccines.
*Why this matters: *Supporters of the waiver said its adoption would be
a crucial step in righting the imbalance in global vaccine distribution,
allowing additional manufacturers to build or convert infrastructure,
ramp up production, and increase global demand — particularly for the
world’s lower-income countries.
*What changed:* Not much. Activists hoped that recent events might cause
the European Union and the U.S. to rethink their earlier opposition. The
EU has moved to put vaccine export controls in place out of concern over
its own vaccine shortfalls — a situation that lower-income countries
believed might make the bloc more sympathetic to their position.
And activists, encouraged by promises from new U.S. President Joe
Biden’s administration to let no boundaries get in the way of American
vaccine access, were hopeful he might bring the same attitude to
international access. But while there are reports that the EU and the
U.S. expressed more openness to discussions on the issue, both continue
to obstruct the proposal.
Without Sufficient Vaccine Doses, Brazil Remains Silent in WTO to
Prevent Crisis With India
Brasilia, along with wealthy countries, has spent months blocking a
proposal from India and South Africa to suspend vaccine patents and
allow the immunizer to be produced in its generic version.
Oliver Mason <https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/author/oliver-mason/>
February 4, 2021
Sufficient Vaccine Doses, Brazil Remains Silent in WTO to Prevent Crisis
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - In a change of stance faced with its
vulnerability regarding vaccine supply, the Brazilian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty) chose to remain silent during a meeting at
the World Trade Organization (WTO)
on Thursday, February 4th, which discussed India's proposal to allow the
breach of patents on immunizers.
Sri Laka, India & Pakistan join 80 nations to slam EU’s vaccine controls
February 5, 2021 by Mihi Perera
At least 80 countries including Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan on
Thursday had criticised the European Union (EU) for its recent decision
of introducing export controls on Covid-19 vaccines, Economic Times
It said the issue came up at a meeting on intellectual property rights
at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in which the developed countries
again refused to support a joint proposal by India and South Africa for
a temporary waiver in global IPR rules to ensure uninterrupted flow of
medicines, vaccines and medical equipment among countries amid the
The EU has introduced export controls on Covid-19 vaccines made in the
region under a transparency mechanism that gives its member countries
powers to deny vaccine exports if the company making them has not
honoured its existing contracts with the bloc.
At the WTO, members who support the waiver proposal, have termed the
current vaccine famine an artificial one that has emerged from the quest
to perpetuate monopoly power using IP, especially trade secrets.
South Africa insisted on a text-based approach in order to find a
landing zone to operationalise the waiver in the shortest possible time
amid lives being lost globally due to the pandemic.
Terming the EU’s measure an alarming one, these developing and least
developed countries said that opposition to the IP waiver is by those
who have secretly bought up their way to available production and
continue to collude with pharmaceutical companies under the veil of
secrecy, according to a Geneva-based official.
“The developed countries dismissed to engage in text-based discussions
on the proposal. They made it clear once again that they will not
support the IP waiver,” the official said.
India and South Africa have said that text-based discussions would allow
manufacturers and governments to have greater freedom to operate so as
to leverage the global capacity that already exists. Their joint
proposal is co-sponsored by Kenya, Eswatini, Pakistan, Mozambique and
EU parliamentarians back India-South Africa's proposal for IPR waiver
on COVID-19 vaccine patents
Media reports are calling the India-South African proposal as a
"nuclear option" and it is already leading a divide in the already
Sidhant Sibal <https://www.dnaindia.com/authors/sidhant-sibal>
Updated: Feb 5, 2021, 07:06 AM IST
European Union Parliamentarians have strongly backed India and South
Africa's joint proposal at the World Trade Organization for a waiver on
intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccine patents in a letter to
EU leadership. The letter by 14 EU MEPs or members of the European
Parliamentarians has called for a moratorium on the suspension of
COVID-19 vaccine patents.
"South Africa and India sent a joint proposal to the World Trade
Organization requesting an exemption from patents and other intellectual
property rights concerning drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, personal
protective equipment, and other medical technologies throughout the
pandemic and this proposal is still pending," read the two-page letter.
The letter seen by WION has asked European Union to "support for India
and South Africa's proposal at the WTO" with the aim to "guarantee
widespread and equitable access to vaccines on a global scale."
DNA Exclusive: Poland lauds India's vaccine diplomacy, hopes for
early air transport bubble
WTO had met in December to take up the proposal for waiver of
intellectual property over coronavirus vaccines but failed to arrive at
the decision over stiff opposition from United States, European Union
and others. The proposal for waiver on IP rights for the vaccines means
affordable access to everyone even as countries try to vaccinate their
The letter by the EU MEP has been sent to President of the European
Council Charles Michel, President of the EU Commission Ursula von der
Leyen, EU high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell,
European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis and European
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Honorable Stella Kyriakides.
The MEPs who have sent the letter are--Andrea Cozzolino, Maria Arena,
Eva Kaili, Alex Agius Saliba, Bogusław Liberadzki, Tiemo Woelken, Milan
Brglez, Patrizia Toia, Irene Tinagli, Pierfrancesco Majorino, Pina
Picierno, Giuliano Pisapia, Massimiliano Smeriglio, Franco Roberti.
The development comes amid the ongoing tiff between EU and AstraZeneca
over vaccine supplies. Media reports are calling the India-South African
proposal as a "nuclear option" and it is already leading a divide in the
already divided group. In fact, the Italian Parliament had backed the
proposal as far as December. A patent pause amid the coronavirus
pandemic looks a humane action but for many license holders would see it
as a loss, and would call for a pushback against it.
Revoke Patents, Defeat the Pandemic & Deliver Global Justice
4 February 2021
Inter Press Service
By Benny Kuruvilla
New Delhi, India — /UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote on
Twitter: “We must get to work to make sure the vaccine is available to
everyone, everywhere. With this pandemic, none of us are safe until all
of us are safe.”/
As the pandemic spills into its second year, the WHO tracker lists eight
Covid-19 vaccines already in public use. Several others are awaiting
regulatory approval. This is unprecedented in vaccine history and with
effective international coordination, it presents the global community
with a real chance for both pandemic and economic recovery in 2021.
Instead, however, the world is on the brink of a 'catastrophic moral
failure' on vaccine distribution, to use the words of WHO
director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Countries are mired in a
stalemate of 'vaccine nationalism', with the rich world having secured
contracts to vaccinate their entire populations thrice over by the end
of this year, while 85 poor countries will not get vaccine rollouts
until early 2023, if at all.
This hoarding of vaccines by rich countries for profit constitutes
'vaccine apartheid', which not only grants rich countries an unjust
privilege but also naively approaches the pandemic as a national or
regional problem, despite its obviously global nature.
And as a recent study showed, vaccine nationalism could cost rich
countries alone USD 4.5 trillion because of its global economic
But even with the imbalance already strongly in its favour, the European
Union lashed out at pharma giant AstraZeneca when the company announced
it would be delivering fewer than half the 80 million jabs it promised
by March 2021, disrupting the bloc's plans to vaccinate 70 per cent of
its adult population by the end of the summer.
Meanwhile, a large majority of poor countries -- most of the world's
population -- will be lucky if they can vaccinate even 10 per cent of
their populations by the end of the year.
In October 2020, South Africa and India moved a proposal at the WTO for
a TRIPS waiver on patents, industrial designs and trade secrets that
restrict access to vaccines and medicines or manufacturing of medical
products essential to combat Covid-19.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, argued in
November that the best strategy against the virus was geopolitical
cooperation -- not competition. Yet her ongoing fiasco with AstraZeneca
has exposed the EU's hypocrisy -- as the EU threatened to invoke the
same emergency provisions on behalf of Europeans that the EU are
currently opposing for citizens of the global South.
At the international level, rich countries and pharmaceutical
corporations hide behind the innocuously named but disastrously enforced
regime of 'intellectual property'. Since its inception in 1995, the
Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
(TRIPS) has arguably been the World Trade Organisation's weakest link.
While TRIPS paradoxically advanced corporate monopoly rights, the rest
of WTO agreements exhorted competition, deregulation and free trade.
*AIDS: the global health crisis of the 1990s*
When the HIV/AIDS epidemic was raging in the late 1990s, the prevailing
cost of patented antiretroviral (ARV) drugs was over USD 12,000 per
patient, per year. South African president Nelson Mandela led a
worldwide revolt for access to affordable, lifesaving ARV drugs by
overriding TRIPS provisions and launching a frontal attack on big
pharma. In response to this call, the Indian generic drug manufacturer
Cipla stunned the world in February 2001 by introducing a drug to fight
AIDS at less than USD 1 per day.
Buoyed by this victory, developing countries fought off US and EU
opposition in pushing for the November 2001 Doha Declaration on TRIPS,
which underlined the right to public health and access to medicines.
Two decades and another global health crisis later, a similar script is
being played out by the same set of actors.
*Publicly funded innovation*
In October 2020, South Africa and India moved a proposal at the WTO for
a TRIPS waiver on patents, industrial designs and trade secrets that
restrict access to vaccines and medicines or manufacturing of medical
products essential to combat Covid-19.
The proposal has now gained heft with sponsorship by Kenya, Pakistan,
Venezuela, Egypt and Bolivia, along with the endorsement of nearly 100
countries at the WTO. The WHO, UNAIDS and several UN special rapporteurs
are also backing the waiver.
Just like twenty years ago, a powerful cabal of rich countries led by
the EU, US, UK and Japan are blocking the waiver. They argue that a
waiver on patents will undermine innovation and that the TRIPS already
offers flexibilities for public health.
The waiver can play a critical role in rapid expansion of vaccine supplies.
Both these arguments are flawed.
A study of 210 drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) between 2010 and 2016 showed that public funding from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) was the greatest contributor to research and
A more recent study showed that governments have allocated at least
€88bn to Covid-19 vaccine companies in 2020, demonstrating the marginal
role of corporate funding in innovation.
*Rich countries should support the TRIPS waiver*
Developing countries have long argued at the WTO that stringent
provisions in the TRIPS have made it virtually impossible to use the
existing flexibilities, and any attempt to invoke flexibilities results
in arm-twisting and retaliatory trade pressures from powerful members
such as the EU and US.
The waiver can play a critical role in rapid expansion of vaccine
supplies. Given that the expertise to manufacture the AstraZeneca
vaccine is reasonably widespread, production can be expanded in firms
across the developing world.
In India, its production has been licensed only to the Serum Institute
of India, which is struggling to keep up with demand. It is a scandal
that while AstraZeneca is charging the EU less than USD 2 per dose,
Thailand -- a far poorer country -- is being charged around USD 5 per
dose. Locating production domestically will also help countries to bring
down costs substantively.
If the US and EU are serious about contributing to a cooperative global
effort on vaccines, they should support the waiver proposal when it
comes up for discussions at the WTO on 4 February.
The pandemic is a global problem that requires a global solution, not a
few national ones. It is of the utmost importance that all countries
take quick and decisive action to put people and health before profits.
Only then can we defeat this pandemic.
/Source: International Politics and Society. Launched in January 2017,
the online journal highlights global inequality and brings new
perspectives on issues such as the environment, European integration,
international relations, social democracy and development policy./
/Based in the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's Brussels office, International
Politics and Society aims to bring the European political debate to a
global audience, as well as providing a platform for voices from the
Global South. Contributors include leading journalists, academics and
politicians, as well policy officers working throughout the FES's global
/*Benny Kuruvilla* heads the India office of Focus on the Global South
<http://www.focusweb.org/>, an Asia-based think tank providing analysis
and building alternatives for just social, economic and political change./
“Viruses Know No Borders”: In Push for Global Vaccine Equity, U.S.
AIDS Program Offers Blueprint
StoryFebruary 04, 2021Watch Full Show
Wafaa El-Sadr <https://www.democracynow.org/appearances/wafaa_el_sadr>
director of the ICAP at Columbia University and a professor of
epidemiology and medicine at the Columbia Mailman School of Public
* “The World Is Desperate for More Covid vaccines”
As the U.S. COVID death toll tops 450,000, the Biden administration is
attempting to ramp up its vaccination campaign to slow the spread of new
coronavirus variants. Meanwhile, health experts warn any vaccination
progress in the United States will be threatened without global vaccine
equity. “We need to, as quickly as possible, expand access to the
vaccines, both in this country, in the United States, as well as around
the world,” says Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of the ICAP at Columbia
University and professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Columbia
Mailman School of Public Health. She argues that the U.S. needs to do
more to supply the world with COVID-19 vaccines, as it did with HIV
medications. “This is a model that can be emulated at this point in time
in recognition of the fact that viruses know no borders.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
*AMY GOODMAN:* The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has passed 450,000.
Over 3,900 people died of the disease just Wednesday alone. In another
major milestone, data gathered by the COVID Tracking Project shows
vaccinations in the United States have eclipsed the number of people who
have been infected with the coronavirus. More than 27 million have
received a first shot, and nearly 6 million have been given both vaccine
doses. This comes the Biden administration says it still expects to
reach its target of 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days, and the
number of deaths and people hospitalized continues to fall. But the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Rochelle
Walensky, warned Wednesday new COVID-19 variants may reverse this trend.
*DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY:* Although we have seen declines in cases and
admissions and a recent slowing of deaths, cases remain
extraordinarily high, still twice as high as the peak number of
cases over the summer. And the continued proliferation of variants,
variants that likely have increased transmissibility, that spread
more easily, threatens to reverse these recent trends.
*AMY GOODMAN:* As multiple new strains of the coronavirus spread across
the United States, the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr.
Anthony Fauci, said Monday people must be vaccinated as quickly as
possible to stop more mutations from emerging.
*DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:* You need to get vaccinated when it becomes
available as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the
country. And the reason for that is that there is a fact that
permeates virology, and that is that viruses cannot mutate if they
*AMY GOODMAN:* This comes as health experts warn any vaccination
progress in the United States will be threatened without global vaccine
For more, we’re joined by Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology
and medicine at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and
director of ICAP at Columbia University. She recently co-authored an
in /The New York Times/ headlined “The World Is Desperate for More Covid
Vaccines,” that argues, “Two decades ago, the U.S. launched a program to
help supply the world with H.I.V. medication. It should take a similar
approach to Covid.”
Doctor, welcome to /Democracy Now!/ It’s great to have you with us. I
wanted to start with this watershed moment that we are in, facing the
race between the vaccines and the virus. Explain what’s happening.
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* Well, thank you. First of all, thank you very much
for having me today.
I think we are exactly at this watershed moment because what we have is
the potential for garnering the benefits of the vaccines we have
discovered thus far, while at the same time we’re also seeing the growth
in terms of the numbers of new COVID cases, as well as also the
identification of these new variants, these new mutations in the virus,
that potentially could threaten the effectiveness of even our vaccines.
So I think what this means is that we have to do two things at the same
time. We need to, as quickly as possible, expand access to the vaccines,
both in this country, in the United States, as well as also around the
world. That’s number one. And number two, we must continue to make every
effort to stop transmission from one person to the next, because this is
exactly what generates these mutations, these new variants. And that
must continue to be done by the usual public health preventive measures
that we are all familiar with. The physical distancing, the masking is
critically important, avoiding large congregations of people, avoiding
socializing at this point in time. So, I think we have to be working on
these two pathways: scale up of vaccines locally and globally, and at
the same time do everything we can to stop transmission of the virus.
*NERMEEN SHAIKH:* Dr. El-Sadr, you talked about vaccine access, the
importance of vaccine access, in this /New York Times/ op-ed
where you point out that it was Dr. Fauci himself — regarding the HIV
and AIDS virus, it was Dr. Fauci at the time who persuaded
then-President George W. Bush to start PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief, that made AIDS/HIV medication accessible to large
numbers of people around the world, saving up to 18 million lives, as
you write. What is it that you’re advocating the Biden administration do
to enable access globally to the COVID vaccines in a similar way?
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* Yes, I think we do have this historic precedent
that I think is probably one of — people do recognize that PEPFAR, the
global HIV program that’s supported by the United States government, is
probably one of the most successful ever foreign assistance programs,
that has received bipartisan support for decades now. And I think this
is a model that can be emulated at this point in time in recognition of
the fact that viruses know no borders, and that what happens in a
country in sub-Saharan Africa has — with regards to COVID, has an impact
on what happens right here in our own country.
So, the model is the importance of prioritizing the procurement, the
support for the development of these vaccines around the world so that
they can actually reach the largest numbers of people possible,
particularly in low- and middle-income countries. So it’s both making
available the vaccines themselves or making available the technology
that supports the development of these vaccines, at the same time also
investment, investing the resources to be able to support vaccination
programs. We know that you need the vaccines, obviously, but we also
need to have effective, large-scale vaccination programs in order to get
the benefits of these vaccines anywhere.
*NERMEEN SHAIKH:* Dr. El-Sadr, you also say in the same piece
that the mRNA vaccines, which both Moderna and Pfizer use, are easier
and faster to manufacture than most other vaccine technologies. But, of
course, these vaccines are extremely difficult to transport and to
store, given the temperatures at which they have to be kept. Could you
talk about what you think — I mean, the Russia vaccine, Sputnik V, has
just been shown to have 92% efficacy. There are other vaccines that
developing countries are attempting to access, the China vaccines,
Sinopharm, Sinovac. How easy or difficult is it, given the technologies
those vaccines use, to manufacture and produce and disseminate widely
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* I think, in the end, we’re going to need really a
mix of different types of vaccines. And it depends, really, on the
setting. There are some settings where it is quite feasible to be able
to keep some of these mRNA vaccines available, if there are freezers,
for example, refrigerators and so on. And then there are other settings
where it is going to be very difficult because of the lack of these
kinds of resources. So, in the end, I think it’s going to depend on the
setting and the location within different countries and so on.
So I do think we need to be flexible. We need to be cognizant of the
realities on the ground and do the very best that we can to enable that,
in the end, countries would have different options, that they can then
seek whatever option fits best within their reality and that fits best
within their own context. I think there’s not going to be one answer,
but I think there needs to be work on all fronts to enable, ultimately,
that people from these countries have access to the vaccine, because it
is the right thing to do, but it also is in the self-interest of our own
country, as well.
*AMY GOODMAN:* Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, can you address the issue of those
concerned about the vaccine? A new study
has come out today from Monmouth University that says in the United
States maybe half the people plan to get vaccinated as soon as they can,
but a quarter say they never will. We see very little information about
negative side effects of these vaccines, though millions have gotten
them. Would it help people to believe more in the vaccine if we heard
about the thousands of, well, complaints and concerns that people have
with the vaccine?
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* I think that, absolutely, I think we are all very —
as public health professionals and researchers, we’re very concerned
about what has been called vaccine hesitancy, which is — it could be
because simply people don’t have the accurate information about the
vaccine itself. So that’s very important, just disseminating information
about the vaccine and how it was developed and what it does and what it
I think another aspect of hesitancy sometimes is because of a legacy of
mistrust, for example, among certain groups of our own population and
global populations in terms of mistrust of government, mistrust of
research. And for that, we need to engage individuals from these same
communities, trusted messengers, trusted champions, who can talk to
their peers about what the vaccines do and what they don’t do.
We also need, at the same time, to also share information as information
arises, in terms of any side effects from these vaccines and the
magnitude of such side effects. I think it’s really important to be
transmitting the information, thinking about what are the best channels
for transmitting the information. And very important is being very
transparent about the information that we have.
We’re very fortunate that, thus far, with all of the vaccines for which
we’ve seen results, have been, first of all, remarkably effective — they
work — and also have been remarkably safe. The safety profile has been
very comforting, and I think that’s really of great importance.
*AMY GOODMAN:* So, why do you think it is, Dr. El-Sadr, that perhaps up
to a third of healthcare professionals say they will not take the
vaccine? That does not inspire confidence. And what is the reasoning?
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* There are multiple reasons for this. I think,
again, healthcare workers are not — are also a part of our society, our
community. And there are, again, many people who are from certain
subsets of our communities, particularly amongst African Americans, for
example, Hispanics and Latinx populations in this country, who, because
of the legacy I mentioned, the legacy of mistrust and prior abuses in
research, are leery of anything that comes from the government,
including these very valuable vaccines.
And I think it’s going to take a lot of work for us to be able to gain
their trust and keep sharing the information. But most importantly,
beyond the knowledge, it is really reaching people from the same
communities who can then talk about their own experiences, why they were
vaccinated, and then demonstrate to others that it is in their interest
and the interests of their families and communities to be vaccinated.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but we need to be working on this
very diligently, engaging with the communities that have the fear of
these vaccines, so that we can gain their trust. It will take a lot of
work, a lot of partnerships, a lot of commitment, and being willing to
listen to their concerns and answer their concerns.
*NERMEEN SHAIKH:* And, Dr. El-Sadr, as I’m sure you’re aware, vaccine
hesitancy is not just a problem in the U.S., but also across the world.
France has one of the highest rates, but also places like South Africa
and Kuwait. So, could you talk about how views of vaccination and why
views of vaccination have changed in this way, and what the implications
are if large numbers of people, or even significant numbers of people,
around the world refuse the vaccine when it’s made available to them?
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* I think that’s an issue, globally, of great
concern. Like you said, it’s not just in the U.S.; it’s in almost every
corner of this globe. And people are — you know, when you think about,
when you ask individuals, they’re on a spectrum. There are people who
are ready and willing to get vaccinated. As soon as they’re eligible,
they’re going to really be at the front of the line. They are convinced.
They’re ready to act. And then, on the other extreme are people who
simply don’t believe in vaccines, for a variety of different reasons
— vaccines overall, not just this COVID vaccine. And then, most people
are somewhere in the middle. And they are seeking answers to their
questions. They are seeking reassurance. They’re seeking — they’re
looking for others like them to have been vaccinated.
And I think we’re now focusing on these individuals who are on the
spectrum of these people who have concerns, who have issues, who have
certain beliefs, and working with them diligently to try to overcome
some of the myths they may believe, and also to try, like I said, to
engage people whom they trust. This is very important. What I’m seeing
now is some of the narratives, storytelling around the vaccines, people
who are standing up from some of these same communities and saying, “You
know, I went and I got vaccinated because I did it for my family. I did
it for my community.” And that can be a very powerful statement coming
from someone from these same communities. And we need to be doing this
in the U.S., as well as around the world, as well.
And I think, in this day and age, it’s particularly important to do this
very actively, because, of course, of social media and the ability to
disseminate sometimes erroneous information about side effects of
vaccines. And I think we need to be very nimble to be able to, again,
respond to some of this erroneous messaging very quickly.
*AMY GOODMAN:* Dr. El-Sadr, I wanted to ask you about the current
controversy in the United States. This is CDC Director Dr. Rochelle
Walensky, speaking during a briefing with reporters Wednesday about the
reopening of schools and vaccines for teachers.
*DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY:* I would also say that safe reopening of
schools is not — that vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite
for safe reopening of schools.
*AMY GOODMAN:* President Biden has said he wants to reopen a majority of
K-8 schools in his first hundred days. But during a meeting with
teachers’ unions last Thursday, Dr. Fauci, director of the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it may not happen.
*DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:* That may not happen, because there may be
*AMY GOODMAN:* So, can you, Dr. El-Sadr, address this issue of whether
parents, teachers and kids should be concerned about in-person learning,
and what it means for Dr. Walensky to say, yes, people should go back to
school, even if teachers are not fully vaccinated?
*DR. WAFAA EL-SADR:* Well, I think we have data now that are very
reassuring. So, over the past year, since the beginning of this
pandemic, there’s been accumulating data that have shown again and again
that transmission in schools is not the problem. It is not that schools
have been breeding grounds for transmission of COVID-19. This has been
shown in a variety of different programs around this country and around
the world, for a lot of different reasons. One is that we have some data
that transmission from children to adults seems to be less efficient
than from adults to adults, so that’s important, and also that there are
data that have shown that the rates of transmission within schools,
again, are very limited. Most of the infections amongst teachers and so
on and other school personnel have been acquired in the community;
they’ve not been acquired in the schools themselves.
So the most important thing is to make sure that the schools are safe.
And that means, of course, paying attention to ventilation, to the
spacing between the students, to face covering if they’re of the right
age and can wear a mask. And I think we have — again, we have the
evidence that said that this has kept our schools as safe environments.
Certainly, again, teachers who are involved in in-classroom instruction,
they are part — at least in New York state, they are part of the group
that is eligible to get vaccinated. But, again, the data, overall, are
quite reassuring about the situation itself of COVID in schools even
without the vaccine. So the vaccine can be an additive protective
measure, but it’s not necessary to restrict return to school until every
— not just teacher, but every staff person at a school is vaccinated.
*AMY GOODMAN:* Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, we want to thank for being with us,
professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia’s Mailman School of
Public Health. We’ll link to your piece
in /The New York Times/, “The World Is Desperate for More Covid Vaccines.”
When we come back, we look at China’s crackdown on Uyghurs and other
Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, as reports emerge of mass rapes
and sweeping surveillance. Stay with us.
Roland Ngam • 4 February 2021
While Africa blames others for vaccine nationalism, we must also
examine our continent’s own failings
The pursuit of GDP growth masked many gaps in African economies for
decades, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how woefully
ill-prepared African countries are to meet the needs of their
people. In South Africa for example, the pandemic has exposed many
problems, including access to water, food, health services and
President Cyril Ramaphosa’sbombshell statement
to the Davos summit on 26 January 2021 about vaccine hoarding by rich
nations has been discussed and dissected from all angles in media houses
around the world. Rich countries, with just 16% of the world’s
population, have hoovered up60% of the world’s vaccine supply
postponing inoculation programmes for the rest of the world by months,
if not years.
Yet, while we must condemn rich nations for hoarding vaccines and paying
scant attention to global solidarity, we must also take a hard look at
ourselves and ask why we always have to depend on others for everything.
The other term Ramaphosa used to describe vaccine hoarding in his
intervention – vaccine nationalism – has been trending since. Political
talking heads in right-wing US media, when they bother to talk about
Covid-19, have opined that “we can’t help everybody”. However, the
consensus among medical experts is that President Ramaphosa’s warning
must be heeded. Vaccine nationalism can tank the global economy for
months or even years if a more coordinated approach to vaccination is
The lesson we have learnt from HIV/Aids, the Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (Sars), the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus
(MERS-CoV) and the Ebola virus disease (EVD) and so on, is that in the
highly interconnected world we live in, it is easy for a virus to get on
a plane and in a matter of hours, infect hundreds of people in faraway
countries. For this reason, we cannot stop a pandemic by working in
silos. It has to be a collective effort.
On Tuesday 2 February 2021, the Director-General of the World Health
Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said vaccine hoarding was
counterproductive and in terms of stopping the virus, it wasn’t going to
Every day the Covid-19 virus is not brought under control, it gets
stronger and continues to mutate into even more infectious variants that
are resistant to treatment regimens that currently exist.The South
African coronavirus site <https://sacoronavirus.co.za/> tells us that
the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) for
example, has been confirmed as the causative agent of “coronavirus
disease 2019” (Covid-19). The Covid-19 virus can survive in a country
where people were not vaccinated, mutate into a virulent strain and then
travel in somebody’s body back to Europe or America and wreak havoc,
even among people who have been vaccinated for Covid-19.
Moderna has already announced that it will have toadjust its vaccine
out of an abundance of caution to improve protection against new
variants of the coronavirus, especially the South African one. After the
South African, Brazilian, and English variants, we could potentially see
an even deadlier variant pop up somewhere else.
So in terms of vaccination, we need strong global leadership and
coordination. Speaking at aUN summit on Ebola
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQY0KjevwAg> on 25 September 2014,
former US President Barack Obama cautioned the world that:
“In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic the likes of which we have not
seen before. It is spiralling out of control, it is getting worse, it is
spreading faster and exponentially. Today, thousands of people in West
Africa are infected. That number could rapidly grow to tens of
thousands. And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking
at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political,
economic and security implications for all of us. So this is an epidemic
that is a threat not just to regional security, it is a potential threat
to global security.”
It is regrettable that the world has not witnessed the kind of
collaboration that was developed during the recent Ebola and Zika health
crises. This was in large part due to former US President Donald Trump’s
denialism-cum-amateurism, the rise of isolationism in the post-2008
recession context (US, England, Italy, eastern Europe) and the relative
inexperience of the current President of the European Commission, Ursula
Gertrud von der Leyen who, to all intents and purposes, has bungled the
rollout of the EU vaccine programme.
With stronger global leadership, better solutions than bleach and
hydroxychloroquine would have come up much sooner. The Africa CDC has
put up an admirable fight with very few resources, but its director, Dr
John N Nkengasong, agrees that vaccine programmes need money, time and
Which brings me to my next, and probably most important point: while we
blame others for vaccine nationalism and hoarding, we must patiently and
honestly take a long hard look at ourselves and ask a few questions.
/Cogito, ergo sum/, right? We have to ask ourselves:
* Where are the African vaccines?
* Why must we always depend on others for everything?
* Why do we have to pay the Serum Institute of India double for
vaccines that we could have produced ourselves with the right
* Have we done enough to control our own destiny?
* Has Covid-19 convinced us to invest more money and resources in our
healthcare systems? and
* Has the coronavirus pandemic shown us the importance of building
Here’s the thing: the pursuit of GDP growth masked many gaps in African
economies for decades and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how woefully
ill-prepared African countries are to meet the needs of their people. In
South Africa for example, the pandemic has exposed problems with access
to water, food, health services, procurement processes, and so on.
Our reflective examination, if we are thorough, should lead to the
conclusion that we do not really control our own destiny in any
particular area. That has to change, and if that is the case, then we
must embrace /degrowth/ and work harder to create localised,
self-sufficient economies. We must reorganise our societies and
prioritise investments in health, education and general well-being.
Every decision we make, be it in energy, agriculture, education and so
on, must answer the question: does it make our /communities/ stronger?
Covid-19 has shown for example how much more work the South African
government needs to do with regard to the government-led universal
health coverage insurance offering (the National Health Insurance, NHI).
South Africa brought in medical doctors from Cuba to help fight the
virus. Cuban doctors had already been working in South Africa for many
years, especially in rural hospitals. Now, the South African economy is
almost four times the size of Cuba’s. Why is Cuba recognised as a global
leader in the area of health and why is such a small country playing
such an outsized role on health matters around the world?
Well, the answer is simple: because Cuba made a conscious decision to
have one of the best healthcare systems in the world right after the
revolution. It decided to invest in its people. A lot of time and effort
went into opening teaching centres, teaching hospitals and training a
disproportionate number of doctors. It took Cuba decades of hard work
operating in a degrowth paradigm to get where it is now.
It is this kind of conscious choice that African countries have to make
now so as not to blame others when the next pandemic hits. Let us
remember the famous lines spoken by Cassius in Shakespeare’s /Julius
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that ‘Caesar’?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ’em,
Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar.”
We can’t always blame others for our problems. Like Winston Churchill
said, never let a good crisis go to waste. The time has come to go
beyond just talking about African solutions to Africa’s problems and
start acting as if we mean it. *DM*
The ICJ recommends that the African Union acknowledge COVID-19
vaccines are a “public good”
February 4, 2021
The ICJ, in a letter to the Chairperson of the African Union,
recommended that the African Union acknowledge that COVID-19 vaccines
are a “public good” and all States must ensure access to these vaccines
in order to realize the human rights of their inhabitants.
The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which most AU
Member States are Party, provides that “every individual shall have the
right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health”
(Art 16(1)). The Charter also places an obligation on the States Parties
to take all “necessary measures to protect the health of their people
and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick”
This obligation must be understood consistently with the equivalent
Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and
Social Rights (ICESCR), to which most AU Member States are also Party.
That provision protects the right to the “highest attainable standard of
physical and mental health”, and requires States to take all necessary
measures to realize this right including to ensure “the prevention,
treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other
diseases” (Art 12(1)(c)). Vaccines, for some such diseases including
COVID-19, are necessarily an integral part of prevention, treatment and
/“It is essential for the process of vaccine procurement and
allocation to be in line with international human rights standards.
The African continent and its people cannot afford to be left
behind, and the best way to ensure that does not happen is to move
forward and prioritize each individuals right to health and
corresponding human rights.” – /
/Justice Sanji Monageng, ICJ Commissioner, Botswana/
Therefore, under these treaties and other internationally binding human
rights law, it is clear access to certain vaccines is necessary to
fulfill a human right, must not be seen as a privilege. Vaccines are a
public good and should be treated as such by States. This understanding
was affirmed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(CESCR) in December in a statement on universal and equitable access to
vaccines. CESCR stressed that: “every person has a right to have access
to a vaccine for COVID-19 that is safe, effective and based on the
application of the best scientific developments”. It further implored
States to “give maximum priority to the provision of vaccines for
COVID-19 to all persons”.
*Recommendations of the International Commission of Jurists*
The AU will be expected by the constituents of its Members to fulfil its
proper leadership function in terms its Constitutive Act an ensure the
promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. To this end, the ICJ
calls upon the AU to adopt resolutions:
1. Calling on all member States to ensure that their COVID-19
responses, including vaccine acquisition and distribution, comply
with international human rights law and standards including those
particularly relating to the rights to health and to duty ensure
this right is realized through international cooperation.
2. Calling on all member States to endorse and fully participate in the
WTO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool.
3. Calling on all member States to openly support the approval and
implementation of a waiver of intellectual property rights in terms
of the TRIPS agreement in order to ensure equitable and affordable
access of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment for all.
4. Calling on all member States to urgently publish public,
comprehensive vaccine rollout plans and transparently provide clear
and full health-related information to their populations.
5. Calling on all participants in COVAX to endorse and fully
participate in the WTO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool.
6. Calling on the WTO to respond expeditiously and favourably to the
proposal communicated by India and South Africa for waiver of IP
protection for vaccines.
To read the full submission, click here
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, ICJ Africa Director Kaajal.Keogh(a)icj.org
<mailto:Kaajal.Keogh at icj.org> +27 84 5148039
Tanveer Jeewa, Media and Legal Consultant Tanveer.Jeewa(a)icj.org
<mailto:Tanveer.Jeewa at icj.org>
Viewpoint: Will Your Local Union Sign On to Ask the WTO to Waive
Patents on Covid Vaccines?
February 04, 2021 / Arthur Stamoulis
Activists draw chaik outlines on the ground in front of a hotel
entrance; one outline is labeled "Vietnam." Others hold a banner: "TPP
is corporate greed. AiDS drugs = life."
Lives are at stake when pharmaceutical companies use trade agreements to
keep generic drugs off the market. Activists against the Trans-Pacific
Partnership made this point about AIDS drugs. Now it's the World Trade
Organization that is holding back the production of Covid vaccines.
Photo: Arthur Stamoulis
More than 100 nations are urging the World Trade Organization to waive
its “intellectual property” rules so that countries can start producing
generic Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to increase global supplies.
Unfortunately, the United States under Trump was one of just a handful
of countries to block that waiver—putting Big Pharma profits ahead of
ending the pandemic.
We at the Citizens Trade Campaign are helping to get hundreds of U.S.
organizations both large and small to very quickly sign a letter to
President Biden, asking him to reverse the U.S. position and support the
waiver, before the next big WTO meeting, which takes place on March 1.
(The full text of the letter is below.)
A number of leading public health groups are already on board, including
Doctors Without Borders, OxFam, and HealthGAP. Many faith and other
organizations are, too. We now need your help getting local unions and
worker centers to sign on.
IT’S IN OUR MUTUAL INTEREST
Americans backing this effort is a perfect example of the type of global
solidarity that counters the ugly nationalism that Trump stood for.
Ramping up global supplies of Covid-19 vaccines has the potential to
save millions of lives around the world. It’s clearly the right thing to do.
But it’s more than just “charity.” Bringing an end to the global
pandemic as quickly as possible would also help working people in the
U.S. by getting our own economy getting back on track more quickly, as
well as by reducing the likelihood of a viral mutation that launches a
“Covid-21,” “Covid-22,” or what have you, starting this whole awful
process over for everyone. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Time is short. Will your union or organization sign on to the letter?
to do so. The deadline for signing is February 24, so that we can get it
to President Biden before the WTO makes a decision on the matter.
/Arthur Stamoulis is executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign
<https://labornotes.org/blogs/2021/02/citizenstrade.org>), a national
coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, and faith
organizations working to improve U.S. trade policy./
Organizational Sign-On Letter Supporting TRIPS Waiver for COVID-19
Treatments & Vaccines
*To Help End the Pandemic as Quickly as Possible and Restore U.S.
International Cooperation, Please End Trump’s Blockade of the COVID-19
Emergency Waiver of WTO Rules So More Vaccines and Treatment Can Be
Dear President Biden,
Congratulations on becoming President. We are encouraged by the
administration’s steadfast efforts to eradicate COVID-19 and in so doing
save countless lives and livelihoods. Many Americans are hopeful that
your administration will improve the pace of COVID-19 vaccine production
and deployment in the United States. But, that alone will not hasten the
end of the global pandemic.
We the undersigned organizations respectfully urge you to reverse a
dangerous and self-defeating position taken by President Trump that
threatens the prospects of ending the COVID-19 disaster. Namely, we urge
your administration to lift the U.S. blockage of the “Waiver from
Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention,
Containment and Treatment of COVID-19” supported by more than 100
nations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
With global supply limited, many people in low- and middle-income
countries around the globe will not have vaccine access until at least
2022, according to the British Medical Journal. Most of the world’s
poorest countries will have to wait until 2024 for mass immunization if
current trends continue, reports the Economist Intelligence Unit. We are
sure you agree this is unacceptable.
Such global inequity is not only a catastrophic moral failure that will
lead to needless suffering and loss of life. Ongoing outbreaks anywhere
mean greater risk of new variants developing against which vaccines are
not effective and/or that can evade the antibodies developed by
survivors. *There simply is no way to defeat the pandemic in the United
States without bold action worldwide.*
The science is clear: People in developing countries need urgent access
to vaccines and treatments to achieve herd immunity, just as people in
the United States do. Without global action, the health crisis and
resulting economic crisis here and worldwide will continue. A new
International Chamber of Commerce report concluded that the current
best-case scenario of wealthy nations being fully vaccinated by the
middle of 2021 and poor countries largely shut out could cause economic
losses exceeding $9 trillion. Nearly half of those costs would be
absorbed by wealthy countries like the United States, Canada and Britain.
The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property
Rights (TRIPS) requires WTO signatory countries to provide lengthy
monopoly protections for medicines, tests and the technologies used to
produce them. After a global campaign by public health and development
groups, in 2001 the WTO issued a binding declaration about better
balancing TRIPS intellectual property protections and public health
needs. A temporary emergency COVID-19 waiver is in line with the WTO
members’ agreement that intellectual property rules cannot create
barriers to health treatments that unnecessarily cost human lives and
undermine the global economy.
Notably, governments, particularly the United States, provided billions
in upfront payments, clinical trial support, and guaranteed purchase, so
pharmaceutical firms did not bear risk. Many precursor technologies used
in the new vaccines resulted from long-term U.S. government efforts, in
collaboration with scientists in the United States and around the world.
Yet now the corporations will control where and how much vaccine is
made. Even as some firms holding vaccine monopolies have contracted
others to manufacture, there is insufficient supply. Thus, while U.S.
participation in programs like COVAX is important, unless production is
quickly ramped up around the world to meet global demand, there simply
will not be enough supply for COVAX to provide countries in need. The
corporate monopoly rights and resulting supply shortages also threaten
access for billions of people in the developing world, to the COVID-19
treatments that are bringing down mortality rates here. The TRIPS rules
limit government options to gain access to vital COVID treatments at an
Today, the many nations that cannot obtain the COVID-19 vaccines and
treatments needed to cover their populations must attempt to negotiate
the slow “product by product” and “country by country” compulsory
license approach allowed under TRIPS. (And attempts to exercise these
rights has led to fierce U.S. opposition in recent years, evidenced in
the U.S. government’s Special 301 Report.) In contrast, the TRIPS waiver
would remove a key obstacle to governments and manufacturers worldwide
accessing the technology needed to invest in making COVID vaccines and
treatments as rapidly as possible, in as many places as possible, for
the billions who still need them.
It is rare that one policy change can so significantly impact a global
health effort that could save millions of lives. Supporting this waiver
is the right thing to do in and of itself. But doing so would be not
only altruistic. Ending the COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible
worldwide is also necessary to reboot the global economy on which so
much of the U.S. economy relies.
And, with so many of the world’s nations supporting this emergency
waiver already, you can also help restore America’s moral and public
health leadership in the world by siding with the majority to prioritize
saving lives over protecting pharmaceutical corporation monopolies and
profits. This new position would be widely noted, given U.S. officials’
shameful attack on the waiver at a January WTO meeting.
We welcomed your promise “absolutely positively” to commit to sharing
technology and access to any COVID-19 vaccine developed in the US,
during an interview with Ady Barkan. At the time you said, “It’s the
only humane thing in the world to do. It's not only a good thing to do,
it's overwhelmingly in our interest to do it as well.” We are asking you
to deliver on that promise.
Thus, we respectfully request that you break with the unconscionable
policies Trump supported and, before the next WTO General Council
meeting March 1-2, announce that the United States will no longer oppose
the temporary, emergency COVID-19 WTO waiver of certain TRIPS
provisions. We also request that your administration inform our trade
partners that the United States will apply the same temporary, emergency
waiver of the same intellectual property rules included in U.S.
bilateral and regional trade agreements for COVID-19 vaccines, testing
Broad based groups call for Malaysia to unequivocally support
temporary suspension of WTO intellectual property enforcement
Twenty-eight organisations including the Consumers Association of Penang
(CAP) and three community activists have called for Malaysia to join
other developing countries in a global effort to remove monopolies on
crucial medical products in the fight against COVID-19.
A letter was sent to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin bin Hj Mohd Yassin
today as members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) continue their
discussion on a proposal to temporarily suspend implementation,
application and enforcement of several parts of intellectual property
agreement of the WTO for a defined period.
The signatories stress that this move will open the door to more
research and development as well as production of needed COVID-19
medical products – diagnostic kits, medicines for treatment, vaccines
and also personal protective gear.
As the first vaccines are approved and rolled out for treatment, it has
shocked the developing world and international organisations such as the
World Health Organization, to see the “vaccine nationalism” and hoarding
that has swept the rich countries. While it is understandable that each
government wants to protect its own citizens, a pandemic such as
COVID-19 demands that the whole world work together because saving a few
while the rest of the world suffers will not save anyone in the long
run. Viruses especially when they mutate to become more infectious will
not respect borders.
A major reason for shortages of the crucial COVID-19 medical products is
insufficient production capacity and intellectual property is a big
factor because of the monopolies created that end up limiting the number
Unfortunately rich countries and the multinational pharmaceutical
industry have been strongly opposing the proposal first tabled by India
and South Africa on 2 October 2020 to have a temporary suspension of
relevant parts of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
The so-called “Waiver Proposal” at the WTO is now co-sponsored by South
Africa, India, Kenya, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Mozambique,
Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Egypt. Almost 100 developing
countries and the poorest countries are supporting this move. There is
also worldwide support from many international organisations and eminent
individuals, and public pressure is growing in the US, Europe, Canada
and Japan where those governments are blocking the Waiver Proposal at
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on 18 January
said that “we now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope
to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the
world’s haves and have-nots”. He gave shocking information on vaccine
distribution: “More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been
administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have
been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25
thousand; just 25.”
“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral
failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and
livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” Dr Tedros said.
Last week, the world watched the European Union fight for timely
delivery of the vaccine that it had ordered from AstraZeneca under an
“advance purchase agreement” and raising questions of shipments sent to
the United Kingdom from manufacturing plants in Europe. Delays and
under- delivery of the expected doses led the EU to impose an export
restriction until end of March that requires EU prior authorization
before vaccines destined for other countries can leave its territory.
There is widespread concern that companies with approved vaccines may
have over-committed in signing numerous advance purchase agreements with
countries that can afford to pay, and delivery delays can jeopardise
Meanwhile, the US is catching up on its national COVID-19 response, and
recognizing the emergency scale of affairs President Biden has invoked
the Defense Production Act of 1950 that is used in war time to ensure
sufficient supply of essential goods. This Act allows the US
president to require businesses to accept and prioritize contracts for
materials deemed necessary for national defense, regardless of a loss
incurred on business. In addition to securing its vaccine supply, the
US will tackle its shortages that include N95 masks, isolation gowns,
nitrile gloves, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) sample collection swabs,
test reagents, laboratory analysis machines for PCR tests,
high-absorbency foam swabs, nitrocellulose material for rapid antigen
tests, rapid test kits and all the necessary equipment and material to
accelerate the manufacture, delivery, and administration of COVID-19
vaccine. While prepared to take all necessary action at home, the US is
blocking the Waiver Proposal needed for a global effort.
The Malaysian Government has announced that there will be multiple
suppliers of vaccines – but our total dependency on imports from limited
sources puts us in a very vulnerable position and a global solution must
be the way forward.
The ongoing vaccine scramble and potential future conflicts over
medicines that can treat COVID-19 and even PPE show the urgent need for
the TRIPS Waiver to overcome the problems of shortages and to ramp up
production across countries to provide the medical products equitably to
small and big countries.
*Mohideen Abdul Kader*
*Consumers Association of Penang*
On 2/4/2021 11:00 PM, Patrick Bond wrote:
> 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 exports.
> "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 vaccines.
> 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
> 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 options.
> 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 proposed
> 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 countries.
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> *TRIPPING UP AGAINST INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY*
> 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 dispute
> <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.
> *HOARDING KNOWLEDGE*
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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 billion
> 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.
> *COMMON GOOD*
> 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
> 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 pandemic.
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