Equity in vaccine distribution will not happen unless the oppressed nations take steps to demand from highly industrialized countries and big pharmaceutical firms to lessen avarice and think on the line of solidarity, which has been missing since the first dose of Western medication has been delivered.
The other alternative is to be self-sufficient.
Neither can the world expect the necessary sharing of technology to immediately end the global scourge to happen as a result of grand scale selfishness now present.
Switzerland-based global watchdog Public Eye indicated Big Pharma or the monopolist multinational drug firms’ strategies to cash in on the pandemic include: Determining research and development by potential profits alone; abuse patents to lock up knowledge while inflating prices and limiting supply; direct the supply chain toward the need of high-income nations; avoid public accountability; design clinical trials for self-interest; socialize risks and privatize profits; embrace public investments while rejecting public returns; impose unjust but unchallengeable prices; financialize innovation and lobby pervasively.
The study noted that before coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) invaded the planet, the vaccine business was divided among four major players: Pfizer, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Merck.
None of these heavyweights showed much interest at the start of the pandemic, although all had the means to take up the Covid-19 challenge of producing a vaccine. Experts who Public Eye talked to described “an atmosphere of extreme reluctance” among the biggest pharma groups in the early weeks of the crisis.
Their change of mind coincided with the commitment of billions of dollars of government money.
While the commercial calculation to join the vaccine race was different for different companies, experts said two factors fundamentally heightened the allure — the sheer size of the pandemic and the unprecedented levels of public funding — the report noted.
In mid-March 2020, Big Pharma entered the race for the vaccine, mostly through partnerships with smaller biotech companies that were leading the way.
Experts noted that had global health been the focus, multinational drug firms should have long solved the coronavirus riddle.
“The coronavirus was already on the public health authority radar. A vaccine prototype to protect against the SARS coronavirus strain had been developed in 2016 at the University of Texas but no pharmaceutical company showed interest in funding the conclusion of the full set of clinical trials,” according to the report.
The Oxford University’s Jenner Institute had also failed to secure funding to continue its work on a vaccine against the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), caused by a coronavirus with many similarities to that of Covid-19.
Despite the US National Institutes of Health outlay of nearly $700 million on coronavirus research and development following the SARS outbreak, there were only six active coronavirus clinical trials in 2019 involving larger pharmaceutical companies.
“The outlook was apparently not profitable enough. For the same reason, in 2017, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries rejected a European Commission proposal for a fully sponsored project with the pharmaceutical industry to fast-track vaccines against coronavirus,” Public Eye revealed.
What it all entails is that in the reluctance of Big Pharma and rich Western nations to set aside their self-interest for the good of humanity, it would be best for each nation to develop their own researches for a cure on the deadly affliction including indigenous medications.
Research and development should be strengthened to prevent the country from being condemned to be at the mercy of powerful nations and corporations whenever a health crisis springs up.