With a huge and immediate threat to humanity, the whole human race united in the battle against the common foe to beat it…..
Well…No. Sorry. It doesn’t seem to be working that way for some weird reason.
For probably at least a hundred years, artists have envisioned cataclysmic global events – an alien invasion, an approaching meteor, a global scale climate catastrophe, a virus. Some novels went as far as to have a protagonist even causing such an event with the sole purpose of uniting humanity. Making humans aware that there is eventually only one human race. And that unites all humanity that comes together to beat the threat.
And here we are. Exactly in this situation. And we failed the test and are still failing every day. “We are all in this together. The virus threatens everyone. Human rights uplift everyone.”* So let’s focus and see how we could be doing it better.
The main goal with COVID is to get rid of the virus as quick as possible. If we don’t do it quick enough, we give time for more resistant mutations to develop. Current vaccines might fail against some of these new strains, and we end up in a vicious and endless cycle of developing new vaccines.
The best way to stop the virus is to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. This is the real priority. In order to inoculate so many people with vaccines, we need first of all to have enough vaccines made.
The most practical and logical thing to do is to let any company or institute that has the technological and technical ability to safely make it, to start manufacturing as quick as possible. As long as they can pass certification by internationally recognized competent entities such as the EU’s EMA, the US CDC, the WHO and many others. Each government can decide by itself which certification to accept.
The lion’s share of the initial investment came from rich governments who have pre-ordered and paid the industry billions to develop the vaccines. The commercial risk was minimal and therefore there is also no need to pay royalties. So we can forego patent rights on all COVID vaccines.
Foregoing patent rights will allow taking down prices and increase the quantity of vaccinations available world-wide. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t need to lose money selling it but even without keeping the IP for the inventors, it won’t.
Making an exception for a global catastrophe will not cause any pharma company to stop investing in other drugs. That is simply bunk and ear-wash the industry’s lobbyists are pushing forward and their voice is heard over and over. It stands to reason that the pharma industry will gain most by having more old people survive COVID. It just means more customers for a longer time.
It might be practically impossible to reach everyone, but we can reach well over 95% relatively easy if we consider geographical obstacles only. The remaining 5% can also mostly be reached with some effort. The only real world obstacles to universal vaccination are first and foremost human blockades. Lack of faith in the vaccine, denial of the virus, political power games. There are few natural exceptions and these would mostly be people who for various medical reasons can’t be vaccinated.
How politicians and leaders are supposed to take care of the welfare of their citizens. Somehow, someone convinced our leaders that this has to happen by enriching on the way a few corporation and a few thousand (maybe tens of thousands at most) of their shareholders. Where does the claim that profit is always a priority come from? Have we gone down that path so far that we can’t see the clear sky above the panoply created by the top?
Making the medical industry employ its production capacity at much lower profitability than it is used to, might actually push some companies to create a permanent vaccine. As we have for polio, instead of being like the yearly recurring flue shot. With the current model, the industry is simply not motivated to create permanent vaccines. But that is what we need to do and that could really put an end to the Corona virus.
We, the taxpayers in rich countries can decide. Our elected representative should. This is their job. Take care of us, not of profits and dividends going to a small group. It’s our money that paid for it. We can and should let all of humanity benefit.
Isn’t that what we wanted in the first place?
* António Guterres, on COVID https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/we-are-all-together-human-rights-and-covid-19-response-and
A note: this article is NOT meant to demonize the pharma industry. The industry is acting as it was trained to act: maximize value for shareholders. It is an issue handled in other parts of this blog. The power to change the view and action by following humanistic ethics instead of business ethics, lies with the politicians who are supposed to represent the will of the people.