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HomeWORLDThe greed of pharmaceutical companies makes the Covid-19 pandemic prolong?

The greed of pharmaceutical companies makes the Covid-19 pandemic prolong?

Sharing on the Project Syndicate page, two scholars Joseph E. Stiglitz and Lori Wallach said that the only way to end the pandemic is to vaccinate enough people around the world. The slogan “no one is safe until we are all safe” represents the epidemiological reality facing humanity.


Outbreaks anywhere can produce a vaccine-resistant novel coronavirus, forcing everyone to return to some form of lockdown. With the emergence of disturbing new mutations in India, Brazil, South Africa, the UK and elsewhere, this is not a mere theoretical threat.

Worse, vaccine production is currently unable to provide the 10-15 billion doses needed to stop the spread of the virus. As of the end of April, only 1.2 billion doses had been shipped worldwide. At this rate, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries will remain unvaccinated until at least 2023.

Therefore, the US President Joe Biden’s administration announced that it will join 100 other countries in seeking an urgent waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property (IP) rules for Covid-19 vaccine is breaking news.

Timely negotiations on a WTO agreement that temporarily removes these barriers will provide the regulatory reassurance that governments and manufacturers around the globe need to scale up vaccine production. -Please, treatments and diagnoses.

Last fall, former US President Donald Trump rallied some rich country allies to block any such IP abandonment negotiations. But the successor administration faces growing pressure to reverse this policy, with the support of 200 Nobel laureates, former national and government leaders, and 110 members of the House of Representatives. and 10 US Senators, 400 US civil society groups, 400 European parliamentarians and many other organizations and individuals.

The root of the problem

According to academics Stiglitz and Wallach, the scarcity of vaccines across the developing world is largely due to the efforts of apothecaries to maintain monopoly control and profits.

Pfizer and Moderna, two makers of extremely effective mRNA vaccines, have rejected or failed to respond to offers from qualified pharmaceutical manufacturers seeking to manufacture their products. Not a single vaccine developer shares their technology with poor countries through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Voluntary Covid-19 Technology Access Group.

The companies’ recent commitments to provide for the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Program (COVAX), an initiative aimed at targeting the most at-risk populations in poor countries more, nothing can replace it. These promises may assuage pharmaceutical companies’ guilt, but do little to change global supply.

Pharmaceutical corporations focus primarily on revenue, not global health. Their goal is simple: Maintain as much market power as possible to maximize profits.

In recent weeks, numerous lobbying groups for pharmaceutical companies have flocked to Washington to pressure political leaders to block the WTO’s repeal of IP protection. The waiver is unnecessary, they insist, as the existing WTO legal framework is flexible enough to allow access to the technology. They also argue that the exemption will not work, because manufacturers in developing countries do not have the capacity to produce vaccines.

And yet, pharmaceutical companies warn that the proposal, if implemented, will weaken research incentives, reduce the profits of Western businesses and even help China and Russia defeat the Western world. West in terms of geopolitics.

While, forgoing temporary IP with a Covid-19 vaccine will obviously make a real difference. That’s why pharmaceutical companies are so vehemently opposed. Furthermore, the “market” confirms this thinking, as evidenced by the sharp drop in stock prices of major vaccine manufacturers immediately following the “historic” announcement of the Biden administration. With the waivers, more vaccines will reach consumers, prices will fall, and companies’ profits will decrease as a result.

Serious lies

After years of active advocacy and millions of lives lost due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the WTO countries have recently agreed on the need for mandatory IP licensing (governments allow domestic companies to manufacture a pharmaceutical drug). patented product without the consent of the patent holder) to ensure access to a cure.

However, pharmaceutical companies have never given up on doing everything they can to destroy this principle. They argue that abandoning IP with a vaccine against the new strain of corona virus will set a terrible precedent. Scholars have sought to debunk uncertainties in their claims.

First, the argument that developing countries lack the skills to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines based on new technologies is not true. When US and European vaccine makers agreed to work with foreign manufacturers such as the Serum Institute of India (the world’s largest vaccine maker) and Aspen Pharmacare in South Africa, these organizations had no noticeable problems in production.

The Coalition for Epidemic Readiness Innovation has identified about 250 other companies around the world with the same potential to boost vaccine supply. They just need access to technology and know-how.

Suhaib Siddiqi, former chief chemical officer of Moderna pharmaceutical company, said that although it is difficult and expensive to develop mRNA vaccine technology, if fully shared about technology and methods, many factories Modern technology can produce this vaccine within 3-4 months.

Second, pharmaceutical companies stated that giving up IP was unnecessary because of the “flexibility” of existing WTO rules and that companies in developing countries did not seek mandatory licensing.

In reality, however, this reflects how Western drugmakers have done everything they can to create legal layers of patents, copyrights, exclusive industrial designs, and secret “monopolies.” trade secrets make existing flexible regulations untouchable.

For example, because mRNA vaccines have more than 100 components worldwide, many of which are associated with some form of IP protection, coordination of mandatory licenses between countries for the supply chain This is almost impossible.

Furthermore, under WTO rules, mandatory export licensing is even more complicated, even though this trade is essential to increasing the global supply of vaccines. For example, Canadian pharmaceutical manufacturer Biolyse was not allowed to manufacture and export versions of Johnson & Johnson’s original vaccine to developing countries after J&J denied a request for a voluntary license for the vaccine. surname.

Another factor leading to vaccine shortages is fear, both at the national and corporate levels. Many countries worry the United States and the European Union (EU) will cut aid or impose sanctions if they issue mandatory permits after decades of threats to do so. But with the WTO waiver, these governments and companies will be spared from corporate lawsuits, bans and other challenges.

Third, the argument that giving up IP would reduce the profits of pharmaceutical firms and discourage future research and development is false. An exemption from the WTO will not abolish national legal requirements for IP owners to be paid royalties or other forms of compensation. But, by eliminating the monopolist’s choice to block more production, the waivers would increase the incentive for pharmaceutical companies to enter into voluntary arrangements.

Therefore, even if the WTO imposes an exemption, vaccine developers can still make a lot of money. Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine revenue in 2021 is expected to reach $15 billion and $18.4 billion, respectively, although governments have largely funded basic research and pay a lot of money up front to bring the vaccine to market.

In the end, the argument that the IP exemption would give China and Russia access to American technology is unconvincing. The reason is that the vaccines are not created by the US first. Cross-country collaborative research on mRNA and its medical applications has been conducted for decades.

Hungarian scientist Katalin Karikó made the first breakthrough in 1978 and since then further developments have taken place in Turkey, Thailand, South Africa, India, Brazil, Argentina, Malaysia, Bangladesh and other countries, including the US National Institutes of Health.

In addition, the mRNA technology in Pfizer’s vaccine is owned by BioNTech (a German company founded by a Turkish immigrant and his wife) and this company has licensed the production of the vaccine. please for the Chinese company Fosun Pharma. Besides, China is also developing and producing its own mRNA vaccine. One is in phase 3 clinical trials; another can be stored at refrigerator temperature, eliminating the need for cold chain management.

America could lose if…

For those focused on geopolitics, the bigger worry must be that, to date, the US has not engaged in constructive Covid-19 diplomacy. The US has blocked the export of vaccines that it does not even use. Only when a second wave of infections began to ravage India did Washington find it necessary to hand over its unused doses of AstraZeneca.

Meanwhile, Russia and China don’t just produce their own vaccines. They have been involved in significant technology and knowledge transfers, forging partnerships around the world, and helping to accelerate global immunization efforts.

With the number of new daily cases continuing to reach high levels in some parts of the world, the possibility of new dangerous variants emerging that pose an increasing risk to all of us. The world will remember which countries helped and which set up barriers during this critical time.

A Covid-19 vaccine has been developed by scientists from around the world, thanks to basic science backed by many governments. Therefore, it is right for everyone in the world to benefit from them. This is a matter of morality and self-interest. Humanity should not let pharmaceutical companies put profits above lives.

Tuan Anh

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