The G7 vaccine masquerade | Matangitonga


By James K. Galbraith

In a recent essay on Samantha Power, the new administrator of President Joe Biden of the United States Agency for International Development, Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times writes – rightly – that the “first great test of Power … lies in what America is doing to help immunize the rest. of the world against COVID-19. And Power herself is quoted as saying, “This is a very, very tangible, results-driven program.”

The results seemed to follow. At G7 summit, Goldberg duly reports, Biden announced that the we would provide 500 million doses of vaccine for use in “low- and middle-income countries”. According to Goldberg, this “prompted other countries to increase their contributions”, ensuring “a billion doses by 2022”.

Except no. According to the World Health Organization, the new real commitment was 870 million additional doses, not a billion, “with the aim of delivering at least half of them by the end of 2021”. In other words, the “goal” would be to obtain “at least” 435 million additional doses of vaccine in the COVAX (the international mechanism set up to ensure access to vaccines in the poorest countries) “by 2022”. Even if all the billions arrive during the year 2022, Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, has called it a “drop in the ocean”, made up of “petty half-measures and insufficient gestures” . As Gavin Yamey of Duke University summed up the findings of a Lancet task force, “rich countries have behaved worse than anyone’s worst nightmares.”

And there is another problem: the G7 commitments are just promises, and G7S track record in keeping its promises is not particularly good. Here the language of G7 the press release says “aim to deliver”. Although these words are believed to have been chosen in good faith, they are not exactly precise or categorical.

4 billion more doses than America needs

Today, Africa and India have vaccinated just 3% of their combined populations of around 2.5 billion people. Why is that? the we alone is deemed to have the capacity to produce 4.7 billion doses by the end of 2021 – four billion more than America needs. Again, according to Amnesty International, the G7 will have “three billion excess doses to needs by the end [of 2021]. “

Where do these doses go? Apparently to wealthy clients. This includes 1.8 billion doses committed in the EU for “lashes,” as Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla of Progressive International reports. Meanwhile, outside of the rich country bubble, the virus can spread, mutate, make sick and kill.

It is not just a humanitarian problem. If viruses are not eradicated, they evolve. Already, multiple variants of the coronavirus have appeared. As far as we know, none can beat the available vaccines. But no one can say for sure that such a variant will not emerge, and the more time lost, the greater the risk – and not just for the world’s poor.

One obvious solution is to arm the stocks accumulated around the world. A second would be to forgo patent protection and supply restrictions on Western vaccines, so they can be produced more quickly in other countries. If India alone – the world’s largest vaccine producer – could overcome current production challenges, it could resume exports and start delivering doses to the rest of Asia and Africa, while meeting its own needs by the end of this year. And enough doses could be produced to end the pandemic, for practical purposes, by the end of 2022.

In early May, the Biden administration announced its support for a proposal, put forward by India and South Africa, to waive trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRAVEL) execution on COVID-19 supplies, including vaccines. But what is it all about? For now, just support for negotiations. With whom? On what ?

It was the government, not the big pharmaceutical companies, that supported the basic research used to invent these vaccines. Companies only own patents because they were granted as an “incentive” to produce them. The claim that they would not do it otherwise is absurd: the we the government has coercive power under the Defense Production Act, which it has previously used to increase vaccine production – including in a way that briefly disrupted Indian production.

Meanwhile, there is China, and on a smaller scale, Russia. China currently vaccinates more than ten million people per day – an accelerated rate that will cover its entire population this year. By 2022, China could produce up to five billion doses for the world – enough for India and Africa combined. Meanwhile, Chinese producers are determined to build production sites around the world, recently starting in Egypt. And Russia plans to produce more than 850 million doses of Sputnik V in India alone this year. It’s pretty much the same as the set G7 engagement – and it will happen sooner.

Protect billionaires, pharmaceutical lobbies and campaign contributions

Not everything we read on these topics is necessarily reliable. Not all projections will work. It may be true, as stated, that Chinese vaccines are less effective than those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik V.

But for now, where this is heading is evident. the we and Europe are offering crumbs, protecting their billionaires, their pharmaceutical lobbies and the campaign contributions of their politicians. Meanwhile, China and Russia have other ideas – and the capacity to make them come true. So, before too long, when the back of this pandemic is finally broken, the world will have new evidence on who is reliable and who is not.

I would say this is all unprecedented, but it is not. During the cold and hungry European winter of 1947-48, Jan Masaryk, the Czechoslovakian Minister for Foreign Affairs, pleaded with the we for food shipments. the we procrastinated, imposing conditions. Klement Gottwald, leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, appealed to Joseph Stalin, who put 300,000 tons of wheat on the trains. Czechoslovakia fell under full Communist control in February 1948.

Samantha Power is right. It’s all about tangible results.

– James K. Galbraith is the Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. Chair in Government / Business Relations at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.


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