Keeping the vaccine for ourselves

The results and ideas should be shared, and the costs should be pooled, regardless of whether it is a rich country or a poor country that is paying.


Did you know that there are 4 different types of COVID-19 vaccines in development with 170 different vaccines in trials?  The reason for this is simple: those that develop the vaccines successfully do not want to share the secrets of their success with other countries – even if they are fairly compensated for their development costs.  Rather, they want to keep for themselves the financial benefits of successful development.

“Governments have poured billions of dollars into helping drug companies develop vaccines and are spending billions more to buy doses. But the details of those deals largely remain secret, with governments and public health organizations acquiescing to drug company demands for secrecy.”

“Available documents . . . suggest that drug companies demanded and received flexible delivery schedules, patent protection and immunity from liability if anything goes wrong. In some instances, countries are prohibited from donating or reselling doses, a ban that could hamper efforts to get vaccines to poor countries.”

“A coalition of countries, led by India and South Africa, have petitioned the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights so generic drug makers can begin producing the vaccines. The World Health Organization has endorsed the idea, but it is all but doomed by opposition from the United States and Europe, whose drug makers say patents, and the profits that flow from them, are the lifeblood of innovation.”  This despite the fact that the governments paid for all or most of the development costs for the vaccines – and yet the private companies get to keep the patents and control the sale of the vaccine product.

Notice that this is the result not only in the United States, but also in Europe where medical systems are basically socialistic.  

If one steps back and considers the entire situation, how should the world as a whole deal with the development of vaccines in a pandemic which creates danger for the entire human race?  

Basically, the number of separate vaccine developments should be determined as best possible from the start, so that the most effective vaccines can be developed.  The results and ideas should be shared, and the costs should be pooled, regardless of whether it is a rich country or a poor country that is paying.  One might suppose that perhaps ten different studies should be done independently but with shared information.  Once a successful vaccine is developed, the results and the means of development should be shared among all countries so that the greatest number of doses can be produced as rapidly as possible.  Even as these doses are being manufactured, alternative vaccines should be developed, in case it turns out that the first one has flaws.

The costs of manufacture and development should be paid by the wealthier countries for the most part, with the poorer countries paying what they can – probably by paying for their own manufacturing.  Why is that?  Because it benefits all countries, rich and poor, to defeat the pandemic.  There should be no profiting from the development and manufacture of the vaccine.  This will assist in maximizing the production and use of the vaccine.  There should be no patents granted in connection with the vaccines.

Should there be immunity from liability if something goes wrong?  Since the development and manufacturing must be done as quickly as possible, there should be no blame cast on those participating in the effort.  However, those who are injured should be treated at the expense of all participating, and there should be general insurance so that the families of those injured do not suffer.

In other words, the effort to end the pandemic should be a venture for the common good, with costs shared as fairly as possible given the financial situation of the various societies.  Indeed, to the extent possible, the societies around the world should collaborate concerning safety measures and what is needed to be done so that individuals in each society obey the safety precautions that have been worked out on a world-wide basis.

If the world had attacked the pandemic as a group, using the United Nations as the organization to coordinate the effort, it is certainly possible that success in fighting the pandemic might have been reached more quickly, with greater success, and at a lower world wide cost.  One can only hope that human kind has learned the lesson and will be better prepared for the next pandemic, which will certainly come.  This sort of coordinated effort is also needed to fight climate change – even though we are not doing so now.  Of course, we knew long ago that coordinated efforts are required to prevent wars and other events.  Our efforts have not resulted in what we had hope for in 1945, which was 75 years ago.


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