The Covid-19 pandemic tested the ability of all international institutions to respond globally. States paid, science done. But the solidarity that made the vaccine appear disappeared soon after.
On May 14, 2020, 140 world leaders, with the support of WHO, launched a call for the rapid development of a vaccine that is available and free to everyone worldwide. These leaders have moved away from the harsh teachings of the past and stated with premature clarity:
“This is not the time to put the interests of the most active corporations and governments above the universal need to save lives, or to leave this huge moral task to market forces. Access to vaccines and treatments as a global public good is in the interests of all of humanity. We cannot allow monopolies, brutal competition or short-sighted nationalism to emerge in this way. “
The plaintiffs knew what they were talking about. And there were promising elements in the first answer. The development of the vaccine received ample public funding from the states. In the so-called basic research that mRNA technology made possible, and also in the application of these results to a vaccine within a year. The North American program Warp Speed and the English Vaccine Drive contributed to this, as did the federal government and the European Investment Bank of BioNTech, which covered the entire risk of companies that funded development and guaranteed subsequent purchases.
The appeal added concerns about access to a call for transparency. The following months made it clear that this call would also be ignored. The European Commission signed secret contracts that, after a long existence, were released with deletions about everything that was important. The crucial problem was quickly cleared up, however: the vaccines, the development of which was paid for by the European states, were completely private property.
States have obtained patents for their companies, put a bottleneck on distribution, and made sure they are at the forefront of getting the vaccine. The oligopoly regime thus created takes advantage of the colossal imbalance between global demand and extremely low supply. Everything was perfect except for the response to the sanitary emergency. The pace of production was entirely subordinate to the management of pharmaceutical companies, determined by the maximization of an unprecedented business. The day after the positive results of his vaccine trials were announced, Pfizer’s CEO sold a portion of his stock for $ 4 million in profit. Moderna and Pfizer promised their shareholders valves in the order of five and fifteen billion.
The most striking case is that of the European Union. The lack of transparency in the European Commission’s delivery model was an absolute scandal. After vaccine development was heavily funded, the Commission surrendered property rights and secret contracts only oblige pharmaceutical companies to do their “best efforts”. This concept became a legal trap that allowed multinationals to haggle over the price of vaccines in stock and break sales promises in exchange for better deals and hand them over to countries that offered better prices. The 2020 production commitments have been broken (from 20 to 3 million in the US), and delivery promises will be successively cut as early as 2021, leading to conflicts between companies and even between nations.
Today the Commission is in a humiliating position to solicit vaccines that have been ordered from the companies it funds. Citizens paid, but not ordered, in a business where liberal fanaticism, institutional conquest and sheer incompetence are mixed.
In Portugal, few speak of disastrous management of the Commission. On the right, the scarcity is another excuse to shoot the NHS. In reality, Portugal is one of the most vaccinated countries in the European Union, well above average and above countries like France or Germany. National health services have set up vaccination systems that work with bumps due to inadequacies, fluctuations, and uncertainties in delivery.
As far as global solidarity is concerned, the conversation remains. The Covax Mechanism does not have any significant impact firepower, even to cover vulnerable employees and first line groups. Guterres called the vaccine a success for science but a failure for solidarity. But the sentence was lost in the race. Pharmaceutical multinationals and world powers seem to be living well with a humanitarian catastrophe on a global scale.
Medicines either release patents at reasonable prices, or those patents must be broken and freely released. More than two million people have died of Covid, except for those who are not included in the statistics. These lives are worth more than the profits of a business we pay for
Once here, with so much damage done, the absolutely empty threats of litigation will be of little use. Everyone knows that the Commission will not go to court for years if it has to guarantee a solution for yesterday. Vaccines must be mass-produced in all the laboratories provided for this purpose. In addition to ensuring the necessary purchases, the UK has increased production capacity to ensure production at home.
It will be of little use to the Commission to keep shouting “We have a treaty here”, especially given what it says there. The solution is simple, provided by WHO and endorsed by Doctors Without Borders and other NGOs. Even the World Trade Organization recognized in the Doha Declaration that the TRIPS (industrial property rights) agreement “neither prevents nor prevents it must prevent members from taking action to protect public health. “
Medicines either release patents at reasonable prices, or those patents must be broken and freely released. The existing production capacities must be fully utilized and expanded as far as possible. More than two million people have died of Covid, except for those who are not included in the statistics. These lives are worth more than the profits from a business we pay for.
José Gusmão, MEP
Moisés Ferreira, deputy
Bruno Maia, doctor
The authors write according to the new spelling agreement