COVID-19 Big Pharma & TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property)
Whoever is left on the planet that thinks Bill Gates is a great philanthropist concerned with human health and well-being through his Gates Foundation, is both cognitively and morally compromised. Gates has been doing everything possible to block any effort to temporarily suspend intellectual property rights regarding COVID-19 vaccines, which would allow poorer nations to increase vaccine production and save millions of lives. Gates was lately interviewed by Sky News and asked directly whether corporations should share vaccine technology. His condescending response was to say that the regulatory standards of vaccine factories in poorer nations cannot be relied upon to meet the high manufacturing and safety standards of US pharmaceutical companies. Aside from the fact that this is completely false, what it demonstrates is just how profoundly morally compromised America (and other wealthy nations including Canada) have become as a result of aiding, abetting, and protecting ruthless profiteers like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, giant pharmaceutical and chemical industries, not to mention greedy banking fraudsters.
The Biden government and political leaders of other wealthy nations have until today (May 5th 2021) adamantly refused to invoke the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) waiver which would temporarily take monopoly control from pharmaceutical companies and allow poorer nations to scale up generic production of vaccines as well as setting price and production rates. As a result, COVID vaccines could not be produced by poorer nations, leading to mass suffering and death. The request for the waiver was put forward by India and South Africa who claimed that it would enable countries around the world to have local producers make their own version of the vaccine. The reality is that if we are ever going to get this pandemic and its variants under control we will need to produce 10 to 15 billion doses of the vaccine. The most that big pharma can currently produce is about 6 billion doses a year.
Pharmaceutical giants have spent millions lobbying Washington to keep their monopoly control in place, while a compliant corporate media (The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times) have been busy writing opinion pieces denouncing the very idea of a waiver. However, it is not just the pharmaceutical companies and the media who resist the waiver: White House adviser Anita Dunn, domestic policy adviser Susan Rice White House science adviser Eric Lander and many others in the Democratic and Republican party’s all have money in Big Pharma company’s and have a vested interest in seeing that a waiver never happens.
In fact, initially the US did not even want other nations of the World Trade Organization to talk about the waiver—it blocked more than 100 other countries from WTO negotiations. From the perspective of corporate capitalist America, agreeing to a waiver would set a precedent that in dire times of great need or existential threat, selfish profiteering must give way to public or planetary human health and well-being. Such an idea was far too radical to even be contemplated—until tremendous public and international pressure finally pressed the US to agree.
Meanwhile, big pharma companies have received a hundred billion dollars of public money globally to produce a vaccine and stand to make billions more in profit. What is truly astounding here is that the mRNA technology the COVID-19 vaccine is based on was not invented by any of the big three American pharmaceutical company’s but by Hungarian scientists in the 1980’s. The patent is in fact held by two Hungarian researchers, Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci who worked at a German medical company called BioNTech. So, the very idea that Pfizer, Bayer, or Moderna ‘invented’ this vaccine and now has intellectual property rights over it is completely ridiculous.
It did not seem to matter to the Biden government that the majority of the people on the planet (including Americans) would support the waiver; it did not matter to them that World Health Organization, scientific experts, and scholars around the world agreed that the waiver is desperately needed; it did not matter whether the waiver would save lives and end the pandemic. What mattered a week ago was that limitless greed and morally repugnant intellectual property rights be protected against any claim that these selfish interests should be temporarily set aside for the sake of the health and well-being of everyone else on the planet.
Global public pressure has changed all that, and the Biden government is now tentatively supporting the intellectual property protections waiver for Covid-19 vaccines. And that is very good news.