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U.S. Declares a Vaccine War on the World

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By Prabir Purkayastha, the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform and an activist for science and the Free Software movement. Produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Donald Trump launched a new vaccine war in May, but not against the virus. It was against the world. The United States and the UK were the only two holdouts in the World Health Assembly from the declaration that vaccines and medicines for COVID-19 should be available as public goods, and not under exclusive patent rights. The United States explicitly disassociated itself from the patent pool call, talking instead of “the critical role that intellectual property plays”—in other words, patents for vaccines and medicines. Having badly botched his COVID-19 response, Trump is trying to redeem his electoral fortunes in the November elections this year by promising an early vaccine. The 2020 version of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is shaping up to be, essentially, “vaccines for us”—but the rest of the world will have to queue up and pay what big pharma asks, as they will hold the patents.

In contrast, all other countries agreed with the Costa Rican proposal in the World Health Assembly that there should be a patent pool for all COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. President Xi said that Chinese vaccines would be available as a public good, a view also shared by European Union leaders. Among the 10 candidate vaccines in Phase 1 and 2 of clinical trials, the Chinese have five, the United States has three, and the UK and Germany have one each.

Trump has given an ultimatum to the World Health Organization (WHO) with a permanent withdrawal of funds if it does not mend its ways in 30 days. In sharp contrast, in the World Health Assembly (the highest decision-making body of the WHO), almost all countries, including close allies of the United States, rallied behind the WHO. The failure of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) against COVID-19, with nearly four times the annual budget of the WHO, is visible to the world. The CDC failed to provide a successful test for SARS-CoV-2 in the critical months of February and March, while ignoring the WHO’s successful test kitsthat were distributed to 120 countries.

Trump has yet to hold his administration and the CDC responsible for this criminal bungling. This, more than any other failure, is the reason that the U.S. numbers for COVID-19 are now more than 1.5 million and about a third of all global infections. Contrast this with China, the first to face an unknown epidemic, stopping it at 82,000 infections, and the amazing results that countries such as Vietnam and South Korea have produced.

One issue is now looming large over the COVID-19 pandemic. If we do not address the intellectual property rights issue in this pandemic, we are likely to see a repeat of the AIDS tragedy. People died for 10 years (1994-2004) as patented AIDS medicine was priced at $10,000 to $15,000 for a year’s supply, far beyond their reach. Finally, patent laws in India allowed people to get AIDS medicine at less than a dollar a day, or $350 for a year’s supply. Today, 80 percent of the world’s AIDS medicine comes from India. For big pharma, profits trumped lives, and they will continue to do so, COVID or no COVID, unless we change the world.

Most countries have compulsory licensing provisions that will allow them to break patents in case of epidemics or health emergencies. Even the WTO, after a bitter fight, accepted in its Doha Declaration (2001) that countries, in a health emergency, have the right to allow any company to manufacture a patented drug without the patent holder’s permission, and even import it from other countries.

Why is it, then, that countries are unable to break patents, even if there are provisions in their laws and in the TRIPS Agreement? The answer is their fear of U.S. sanctions against them. Every year, the U.S. Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) issues a Special 301 Report that it has used to threaten trade sanctions against any country that tries to compulsorily license any patented product. India figures prominentlyin this report year after year, for daring to issue a compulsory license in 2012 to Natco for nexavar, a cancer drug Bayer was selling for more than $65,000 a year. Marijn Dekkers, the CEO of Bayer, was quoted widely that this was “theft,” and “We did not develop this medicine for Indians… We developed it for Western patients who can afford it.”

This leaves unanswered how many people even in the affluent West can afford a $65,000 bill for an illness. But there is no question that a bill of this magnitude is a death sentence for anybody but the super-rich in countries like India. Though a number of other drugs were under also consideration for compulsory licensing at that time, India has not exercised this provision again after receiving U.S. threats.

It is the fear that countries can break patents using their compulsory licensing powers that led to proposals for patent pooling. The argument was that since many of these diseases do not affect rich countries, big pharma should either let go of their patents to such patent pools, or philanthropic capital should fund the development of new drugs for this pool. Facing the pandemic of COVID-19, it is this idea of patent pooling that emerged in the recent World Health Assembly, WHA-73. All countries supported this proposal, barring the United States and its loyal camp follower, the UK. The United States also entered its disagreement on the final WHA resolution, being the lone objector to patent pooling of COVID-19 medicines and vaccines, noting “the critical role that intellectual property plays in incentivizing the development of new and improved health products.”

While patent pooling is welcome if no other measure is available, it also makes it appear as if countries have no other recourse apart from the charity of big capital. What this hides, as charity always does, is that people and countries have legitimate rights even under TRIPS to break patents under conditions of an epidemic or a health emergency.

The United States, which screams murder if a compulsory license is issued by any country, has no such compunction when its own interests are threatened. During the anthrax scare in 2001, the U.S. Secretary of Health issued a threat to Bayer under “eminent domain for patents” for licensing the anthrax-treatment drug ciprofloxacin to other manufacturers. Bayer folded, and agreed to supply the quantity at a price that the U.S. government had set. And without a whimper. Yes, this is the same Bayer that considers India as a “thief” for issuing a compulsory license!

The vaccination for COVID-19 might need to be repeated each year, as we still do not know the duration of its protection. It is unlikely that a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 will provide a lifetime immunity like the smallpox vaccine. Unlike AIDS, where the patient numbers were smaller and were unfortunately stigmatized in different ways, COVID-19 is a visible threat for everyone. Any attempt to hold people and governments to ransom on COVID-19 vaccines or medicines could see the collapse of the entire patent edifice of TRIPS that big pharma backed by the United States and major EU countries have built. That is why the more clever in the capitalist world have moved toward a voluntary patent pool for potential COVID-19 medicines and vaccines. A voluntary patent pool means that companies or institutions holding patents on medicines—such as remdesivir—or vaccines would voluntarily hand them over to such a pool. The terms and conditions of such a handover, meaning at concessional rates, or for only for certain regions, are still not clear—leading to criticism that a voluntary patent pool is not a substitute for declaring that all such medicines and vaccines should be declared global public goods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike clever capital, Trump’s response to the COVID-19 vaccine is to thuggishly bully his way through. He believes that with the unlimited money that the United States is now willing to put into the vaccine efforts, it will either beat everybody else to the winning post, or buy the company that is successful. If this strategy succeeds, he can then use “his” COVID-19 vaccine as a new instrument of global power. It is the United States that will then decide which countries get the vaccine (and for how much), and which ones don’t.

Trump does not believe in a rule-based global order, even if the rules are biased in favor of the rich. He is walking out of various arms control agreements and has crippled the WTO. He believes that the United States, as the biggest economy and the most powerful military power, should have the untrammeled right to dictate to all countries. Threats of bombing and invasions can be combined with illegal unilateral sanctions; and the latest weapon in his imaginary arsenal is withholding vaccines.

Trump’s little problem is that the days of the United States being a sole global hegemon passed decades ago. The United States has shown itself as a fumbling giant and its epidemic response shambolic. It has been unable to provide virus tests to its people in time, and failed to stop the epidemic through containment/mitigation measures, which a number of other countries have done.

China and the EU have already agreed that any vaccine developed by them will be regarded as a public good. Even without that, once a medicine or a vaccine is known to be successful, any country with a reasonable scientific infrastructure can replicate the medicine or the vaccine, and manufacture it locally. India in particular has one of the largest generic drug and vaccine manufacturing capacities in the world. What prevents India, or any country for that matter, from manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines or drugs once they are developed—only the empty threat of a failed hegemon on breaking patents?

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58 comments

  1. Noel Nospamington

    Clearly the Trump and Johnson administrations are completely wrong in not supporting that all COVID vaccines and medications be declared as public goods. This is an unprecedented global threat requiring unprecedented global response.

    But as a Canadian I have to reluctantly admit, there are legimate reasons to oppose the WHO. Trump like a broken clock can be correct twice a day, even if he is wrong the other 1438 times a day.

    The worst offence is that the WHO (World Health Organisation) is suppose to represent the world, and yet it deliberately excludes Taiwan, which it a known part of the world with 24 million people.

    Taiwan was the first to inform the WHO of human-to-human transmissions in December, but was completely ignored. And Taiwan has best handled its response to the pandemic.

    Personally I think that all countries should stop supporting the WHO until it restores Taiwan’s observer status it previous had until 2016. The only other reasonable option would be to create an alternative health organisation to the WHO which does not exclude any part of the world.

    The WHO also has other failings, including corruption, exorbitant travel expenses, and an unqualified president beholden to the CCP. But these failings pale in comparison to Taiwan’s exclusion, and hopefully the other failings can be fixed within the organisation.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Just because the cowards at WHO caved to the Chinese Empire and is corrupt doesn’t mean that it is okay for the American Empire to unilaterally decide that poor people, including poor Americans, should go die en masse just to allow the already comfortable and wealthy to be even more comfortable and wealthy; someone like Martin Shkreli is not a hero. He’s at best a sociopath, but more likely a psychopath just like Pelosi, McConnell, Trump, and Xi.

      Further, if the WHO is horrible why does not the United States push for its complete overhaul instead of using it as part of the reason for killing the poor for profit? Just how evil does this situation become? Is the general leadership of the American political economy trying to be evil just for the fun of it?

      Any day now, I expect to see packages of Soylent Green being given away at the overwhelmed food banks.

      Reply
      1. GramSci

        “Is the general leadership of the American political economy trying to be evil just for the fun of it?”

        Yes.

        Reply
      2. Vastydeep

        Ah, but Shkreli *is* a hero — his Forbes interview (on Daraprim – youtube-able) is one I show every term in my Innovation classes. He was a great public face for Lambert’s “because Markets!” — I’m sorry he’s in prison and not out doing more interviews. “Could you patent the sun…?” (my other Innovation video) — if Shkreli were out, I imagine he’d tell us that he has a legal team working on it.

        Reply
        1. Victor G.

          You seem to be using an ad hoc definition of “Hero” … care to clarify? It’s obvious altruism plays no part. What else do you have?
          Things are a bit messy these days. Using standard, time tested definitions of terms would be helpful.
          Your hero? Sort of like “Coke is Life” …

          Reply
      3. Amfortas the hippie

        “Just how evil does this situation become? Is the general leadership of the American political economy trying to be evil just for the fun of it?”

        and at what point does the general indifference to this state of affairs that still, incredibly, obtains, turn over into mass outrage and condemnation?
        Skrelli, Bayer, and all the rest are frelling evil.
        extortion writ large, with easily preventable death and suffering.
        it did NOT begin with trump.
        It’s been there for most of my life.
        what will it take for ordinary people to get mad enough about it all to do something about it?
        even in this article, the unspoken assumption is that our hands are somehow tied…that these corps have agency far beyond anyone else’s…but those corps can be seized, and exist only at the pleasure of governments in the places they pretend to exist in.
        they are a human creation…an Egregore, set tottering about as if it were willful and alive…
        but even Lefties treat them as untouchable godlike entities…”oh, well…lets appeal to “Benevolent Capital, instead…”

        “Behold, I show you the last man.
        ‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and blinks.
        The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest.
        ‘We have invented happiness,’say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth. One still loves one’s neighbor and rubs against him, for one needs warmth…
        One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one is careful lest the entertainment be too harrowing. One no longer becomes poor or rich: both require too much exertion. Who still wants to rule? Who obey? Both require too much exertion.
        No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.
        ‘Formerly, all the world was mad,’ say the most refined, and they blink…
        One has one’s little pleasure for the day and one’s little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health.
        ‘We have invented happiness,’ say the last men, and they blink.””
        -Zarathustra

        Reply
        1. ShamanicFallout

          I’ve been asking myself who and what do our ‘leaders’ and ‘elites’ actually serve. I try and try to be rational but if I told you my conclusions you might accuse me of occultism and demonology. I think there was a Dylan song about that

          Reply
          1. JBird4049

            You might be accused of occultism and demonology. However, if demons were proven real, I would not be surprised. If the Morning Star himself was discovered giving advice to the Powers That Be, I not be shocked; really though, we humans, as a species, are capable of great evil without any outside help.

            We are the ultimate cause of all this evil even if most of us do not approve of its creation.

            Reply
      4. mpalomar

        As you note it’s about profits. One of the disturbing condemnations of the now fading American Century, which most USians remain contentedly oblivious to is that during their watch as global hegemon, the US, in what can be seen, in the best light, as bad faith, worked to undermine the democratic functionality of international cooperative organizations like the WHO, the UN, etc.

        Thus when emergencies arise such as international diplomatic crisis or pandemics, it is found these organisations have been rendered untrustworthy, corrupted and unreliable; unsuited to purpose. American exceptionalism?

        Reply
      5. Senator Blutarsky

        According to the reports on the WHO-Website, the USA is the biggest contributor
        to the WHO’s budget. At least according to the WHO results report of 2019 and the
        ‘assessed contributions’ payable for 2020-2021.

        In 2019, the ‘assessed contributions’ combined with the voluntary contributions make the USA the
        top contributer to the WHO’s budget, with a sum of more than 900 million dollars.
        China is 15th on that list with their assessed contributions being a little higher than those
        of germany and a negligible amount of voluntary contributions.

        https://www.who.int/about/finances-accountability/reports/results_report_18-19_high_res.pdf?ua=1

        https://www.who.int/about/finances-accountability/funding/2020-21_AC_Summary.pdf?ua=1

        It’s not clear to me, why china would have so much influence over the WHO.

        Reply
        1. jrkrideau

          It’s not clear to me, why china would have so much influence over the WHO.

          It does not but it suits Trump to try to off-load blame.

          In this pandemic China has been performing pretty well, coordinating well with WHO and other nations, etc. It was not sitting like a bump on a log ignoring WHO warnings like some we can remember.

          It could be WHO finds it more comfortable to work with countries that are not screaming that WHO is “criminally” incompetent.

          Reply
          1. Senator Blutarsky

            I was referring to JBird4049’s comment that says ‘…the cowards at WHO caved to the Chinese Empire…’.
            My point is, that China doesn’t have the leverage to make the WHO cave, at least not through their financial contributions.
            As you said, it’s about off-loading blame.

            But I’ve heard and read many commentaries in the news about China having leverage
            over the WHO, mostly because the US allegedly doesn’t pay its dues to the WHO.

            I started getting curious about it that I looked up the WHO’s budget to find that it’s simply not true.
            There is so much misinformation out there that’s being repeated over and over again that you kind of start believing it. I just wanted to add some facts.

            Reply
      6. Temporarily Sane

        Are you sure the “cowards at WHO caved to the Chinese Empire” or are you perhaps regurgitating propaganda you’ve picked up somewhere?

        I can’t take seriously anyone who simply repeats the propagandistic talking points of the hour as if they are self-evident, even less so when they are delivered in a tone that is trembling with righteous outrage.

        Your post actually reads like “stealth” Hasbara with the criticism of the US added to distract from the fact that you are serving up verbatim propaganda that, incidentally, is itself designed to help the Empire save face after its atrocious handling of the current pandemic.

        Fact is, to date China and the nations and city states of Southeast Asia have done a much better job than the US and most of the leading western countries of managing the Covid-19 outbreak and preventing the disease from spreading throughout their population. No amount of whataboutery or other deflect and distract tactics will change that.

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          Oh, please. Don’t insult my intelligence.

          Fact is I only criticized, China, the WHO, and the United States so just how does the rest of Asia or even the West pertain to my little rant?

          I could always be a stealth propaganda, but as I have several times on this very site accused Israel’s ruling regime in general, and Netanyahu in particular, as being genocidal with their treatment of the Palestinians for greed and power, and the previous atrocities done by the Palestinians on the Israelis does not excuse this evil; China is a brutal, murderous, totalitarian empire, even more so than the United States, which so far is less brutal, but more murderous, and only growing more authoritarian instead of totalitarian; since I am fairly universal in my condemnation, but only in passing of WHO, I have to ask just how I could be this Machiavellian critic of WHO? Or of China?

          If you think my passing condemnation of the organization as unfair, well okay. I could be wrong. I have not read up on it lately.

          Thinking that somehow China handled the epidemic well is a almost certainly a serious mistake. The local and national governments mishandled the epidemic by first ignoring, then hiding, and then denying (lying, really) the spread of the disease as it became an epidemic and then a pandemic. The government did finally truly did take the disease seriously and have apparently dealt with it inside China. Good for them. Too bad for the rest of the people on the Earth especially in poor countries. So far, most local and the national government in the United States have also refused to take this disease seriously. Someday, it would be nice to see my Mom in the flesh.

          Bluntly, China sacrificed many lives for the sake of appearances and is partially responsible for the many current and future deaths caused by the governments of other nations because of denial and incompetence. Blessed are the peoples of Vietnam and South Korea.

          And yes, the regimes of both empires should go the way of the Soviet Union’s

          Reply
    2. km

      That is rich, considering the United States arbitrarily excludes countries for no reason other than it does not approve of their leadership.

      Reply
    3. rosemerry

      Taiwan is not “excluded”, but remember it is,like Hong Kong, a part of China, under the agreed “one China policy” since the time of Nixon, and no matter what Trump wants.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Who made this “agreed One China policy?” Should we not ask what the Taiwanese want instead of either the Americans or the Chinese? Or anyone else? If they want to be a free nation, just like Hong Kong wants a separate system, then as their right, they should be.

        But then, just like with the oligarchy in the United States, respect the rights of others means losing power and wealth, which is why the slave patrol is police are going strong in much of America.

        Reply
    4. Dwight

      There is a global pandemic, Europe and China are cooperating through the WHO, and you think making a stand on Taiwan is worth the risk of delaying a vaccine? I think your real purpose is to distract from the topic of the U.S. putting private gain over public good. You’re also throwing in a doubtful pro-Trump claim that the Taiwan issue caused the U.S. failure to respond 2 months later.

      Reply
  2. VietnamVet

    It is clear now that the USA will not fund a national public health system to fight the coronavirus epidemic. The only conclusion is the reason is to allow Pharmaceutical Corporations to make huge profits by marketing patented drugs and vaccines to treat the illness; if and when, they become available sometime in the future.

    Due to incompetence, lack of money and bad messengering; the economic reopening of the USA could kill close to a million Americans. To Republicans and Libertarians, this is of no concern. Democrats may acknowledge the deaths but say they are unavoidable.

    For the Elite keeping their wealth is more important than spending a portion to prevent the huge costs in lives and treasure that will come once the Wuhan Coronavirus is established across North America like the related common cold.

    Reply
  3. Alternate Delegate

    This is a teachable moment on the immorality of all “intellectual property”.

    I am pleased to see that so many countries – other than the US and the UK – can get together on the common decency of allowing everyone to live, and set that above the “justice” of paying off intellectual property assignees. But these countries still have some ways to go in understanding that this applies to all information. That the creation of information can never be a living – in contrast to a living based on the creation of essential goods and services, about which we are learning so much right now! – and that information can never be owned.

    They do not yet fully comprehend that all claims to own and extract rent from information are in fact crimes against humanity.

    But they will. A teachable, as I said, moment.

    Reply
    1. Bugs Bunny

      The intention of granting copyrights and patents was noble, to provide a limited monopoly on an invention or literary work for a limited period. IP has been distorted and twisted, extended to insane time limits to protect works that for any common sense thinkers have already become public domain (see, e.g. the Happy Birthday song, Mickey Mouse or re-formulation of a drug that’s gone out of patent). Software should have had its own IP regime but that ship has sailed (thanks Bill G.).

      Either a giant reform is due or people will ignore the law and infringe the IP. Chinese companies do it with impunity. Maybe they’re right to do so.

      Reply
      1. shinola

        Unfortunately, I have to agree.

        “If you really want to make a lot of money, go into the medical bidness. People will pay just about anything if their life or health are at stake (chuckle)”

        Quote from Econ. prof. circa 1974. And he really did call it “bidness”; a term he used to distinguish a scam or rip-off from “legitimate” business. (and he really did chuckle).

        Reply
        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You have it wrong. There are better ways to become really rich, as opposed to comfortably rich.

          You are more likely to become a billionaire in tech (as in the non-bio kind) than in medicine.

          And you are twice as likely to become a billionaire if you manage money.

          Having said that, there’s a reason the health care industry has long been the biggest (in terms of $) lobbying group in the Beltway.

          Reply
    2. Ignacio

      I just quibble it is not the US or the UK. They are Trump and Johnson. True they are the highest rank representatives but it is till them, and only them.

      Voting any of the two, it should be clear by now, means that one does not care about the self-marginalization or the unilateralism in which these leaders are deeply involved.

      Reply
    3. WheresOurTeddy

      I’m sure everyone who writes the books, tv and movies that you’ve been consuming hours of per day during quarantine will sign on to the Star Trek model and simply work for the common good. With our robust public housing that will end homelessness and the universal basic income President Biden will sign into law, this should be achievable within 8 years.

      My previous paragraph should be taken seriously as your comment, which is to say not at all.

      Reply
  4. LowellHighlander

    With all due apologies to the likes of Dean Baker, Michael Hudson, and other classicals, where are the economists? If neo-classicals of the prestigious graduate programs so fervently believe in the need for patents & copyrights, let them speak up now, so that the world can clearly see their barbarity for its true colors.

    Economists’ apologizing for systems of rents, patents, and copyrights can (in this particular case) be undercut with reference to one giant: Dr. Jonas Salk.

    Reply
    1. John Wright

      It appears that the USA has some real competition in the intellectual property game.

      Per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Intellectual_Property_Indicators

      Patent applications for the top 20 offices, 2018
      Rank Country Patent applications
      1 China 1,542,002
      2 U.S. 597,141
      3 Japan 313,567
      4 South Korea 209,992

      If one sums up USA patent applications vs Asia (China, Japan, SK), it is USA 597K vs Asia 2066K.

      So Asia is putting in patent applications, vs the USA, at a 3.46 multiple vs the USA.

      It will be interesting to see if the USA attitude about the sanctity of intellectual property changes when important key patents are held by the rest of the world.

      Reply
      1. MillenialSocialist

        America will retcon themselves to be the descendants of the great Viking raiders, nobly saving western (white) civilization from being overrun by the encroaching foreigners

        spooks, i’m available for narrative work the next 40 years or so

        Reply
    2. RBHoughton

      I think no-one has a problem with intellectual property rights, its just that they keep growing like topsy. Micky Mouse is now at 70 years. We have fallen down on our reward system.

      For example if a man pays more tax he might reasonably expect better service. Today the rich pay no tax but they still expect and receive favors. Our society has become a joke.

      Reply
    3. Yves Smith Post author

      The big fail is that the US provides ginormous support to Big Pharma in the form of basic and applied research funding through the NIH and other agencies. Making Big Pharma pay licensing fees to the Feds if they don’t submit to price limits when their products use public-funded IP and research would help.

      Reply
  5. timbers

    Teachable moments…

    This could get really interesting if China or a non US & associated puppets develops an effect Covid treatment first.

    I will dream of something like this:

    China develops vaccine, offers it free to US on condition it reduce it’s Dept of War & Aggression by 80% and honor all existing and recently existing arms control agreement, and withdraws it’s Naval forces though out the world and confines them to the North Atlantic and California coast.

    Reply
    1. fajensen

      China develops vaccine, offers it free to US on condition …

      The US will simply steal it, then patent it and finally sanction the hell out of everyone using it without US approval, of course claiming it was stolen from the USA in the first place. People will pretend to believe it.

      The US is becoming the lumbering, stupid and brutal USSR of the old days and we are still The Satellites!

      The “best” we can hope for in the short term is that the mobbed up guy in the Whitehouse kicks off enough civil disorder over his departure (be that in 2020 or in 2024) to keep the USA busy with managing its own Soviet style collapse so that we can manage ours.

      PS –
      The US is unlikely to uphold any sort of agreement; this started already with from the wars with the native people. It is embedded into the very DNA of the nation.

      Reply
  6. ProNewerDeal

    I wonder if a geopolitically powerful nation/bloc of nations such as China/India/etc might announce that they disregard pharma IP, & announce that they will adhere to the economist Dr Dean Baker-type policy of open source pharma R&D/recipe publication, any private manufacturer may manufacture & sell the resultant pharma SKU. I am referring to any type of pharma or medical device (such as ventilators), not just a COVID-19 vaccine. I would guesstimate that the “soft power” & goodwill generated by such a policy would be extremely beneficial to those nation(s). Furthermore, the US if it tried to retaliate via sanctions or other threats would get a corresponding additional decrease in soft power.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      they could call their eventual US aide program “Saving America with Love and Kindness”(S.A.L.K.)

      the vampires at the heart of US Empire are become so greedy that they’re no longer confining themselves to the shadows of Plausible Deniability, via Confusion and Chaos…but are right out there in the middle of the proverbial road, doing the nasty for all to see.
      Many of us, here, have been outraged for a long time at the Machine and all it’s works.
      My hope is that some critical mass of the Rest will finally get there, as well, and at long last.

      The places I’ve been for most of my life are filled with people who, very seriously, call themselves Christians…and the random samples i’ve been afforded in my lifetime, indicate that they are pretty decent folks underneath the parrot noises they’ve been trained to make.
      at the least, they really, truly believe in Jesus and treat bible verses as Truth, full stop.
      since I’ve been studying them, I’ve often been amazed at the contortions they will endure for the politicization of their faith…but that was in good times…when the rapine and destruction they were supporting was hidden away, or at least obscured with a tarp.
      and I ain’t talking about trump or any individual Righty Pol…the Operating System of Empire is laid bare.
      surely this opportunity can be seized and wielded, in order to break the spell all these, our neighbors, have been under.

      please see: https://www.theauthoritarians.org/ (free download of a useful book on the hive mind of the right, and how they were trained up into an army of nutters)
      The very same tactics and strategies can be used to bring them back, given a big enough crisis, and a big enough rend in the veil.

      Reply
  7. The Rev Kev

    Don’t take this the wrong way but I hope for America’s sake, that it is some other country or countries that develop any vaccines first. If this is so, the US will get ahold of the vaccine though they would not get exclusive use but would have to share production with other countries, no matter how many temper tantrums Trump would throw. But if the US gets there first, that is when the trouble starts. Trump would make clear that it would be Washington that who gets to decide who gets this vaccine and Trump himself has talked about sharing with “partners”. But I have been thinking lately how this would play out.

    So he would probably say that countries like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, etc. would get none until they learned to “behave”. Any countries found exporting the vaccine to these countries would be immediately sanctioned. But the countries that do get it would not get it for free. That would be a matter of negotiation. That great ally South Korea would get it – once they agreed to pay those $5 billion in the base cost sharing previously demanded. The UK would get it as well after agreeing to take in all that chlorinated chickens. You get the idea. Each nation would have to agree to some sort of demand and the whole business would be done it terms of a profit-making exercise and a rich price would be demanded by Trump and Big Pharma.

    Can you imagine the world-wide level of contempt and revulsion to this sort of shenanigans? Trump would not care as it would be all about MAGA and getting campaign contributions from Big Pharma. He can always retreat back into his billions eventually. It would not matter if this was of no benefit to ordinary Americans, even if most Americans could not afford the price of the vaccination. But hey, at least they would have access, right? The blowback to all this would be far ranging and years would not diminish the rage. And god knows how that would all play out.

    Reply
    1. timbers

      I agree. Better for the world someone besides US or one of it’s puppets gets a vaccine first. Yet either way, the US is in decline, and Covid has done a bit to make it more apparent that this is happening.

      Reply
      1. Noel Nospamington

        I don’t think there will be a first vaccine, since there are already multiple vaccine candidates which have started or will start soon with human trials.

        By the end of the year, what will differ will be the effectiveness and side effects (risks) of those vaccine candidates which the human trials reveal.

        Any so called first vaccine might seem to ahead of the other candidates, but may not be as effective, carry more risk, or did not undergo as rigorous human trials, as the other candidates.

        Throw in huge profit motives for any first vaccine developed in the USA which has a government that is likely wave vacine risk liabilities, and instead of being a big phrama guinea pig, most likely you would be better off waiting for second vaccine from the rest of the world.

        Reply
      2. Hepativore

        Even if another country develops an effective COVID-19 vaccine before the US does, I bet that its importation and distribution in my country will be financialized by the private sector, and runaway speculation in addition to intentionally-created artificial shortages will drive the cost of the vaccine through the roof here. Plus, I am sure that there will be a bipartisan effort led by Pelosi, Schumer, and McConnel to block any sort of bill that would pick up the tab for the probably-inflated cost of the vaccine for all of the people who do not have health insurance anymore due to losing their jobs or never having insurance in the first place such as myself. For that matter, many private insurance companies might even revise their plans to specifically exclude a COVID-19 vaccine deeming it as “experimental” hoping that somebody else will pick up the tab.

        Nothing surprises me anymore in terms of how backwards my country is now compared to the rest of the developed world. We live in an era where my elected officials and their corporate masters talk openly about sacrificing the lives of the precariat so that the capital class can continue with business as usual during the pandemic. With all due respect to Ignacio, I doubt that things would be all that much different under Obama, Clinton, or Biden as they are all dedicated to making sure that neoliberalism keeps chugging along.

        I keep hearing about the era before neoliberalism and how different things were. It is hard to believe as I was born in the mid-1980’s during the rise of Reaganomics and neoliberalism has been the paradigm behind my country’s government for my entire existence.

        Reply
        1. fajensen

          Nothing surprises me anymore in terms of how backwards my country is now compared to the rest of the developed world

          Well, F.W.I.W., I predict that Sweden will question the value, efficiency and safety of any vaccine available *only* in order to preserve their “experts” Faith: That those thousands already dead and maimed here on “herd immunity” could not have been saved in any circumstances!

          With those people it’s not even about the money, it is all about principles.

          Reply
  8. Rod

    I think this article fits right in with yesterdays post:

    Political Scientist Tom Ferguson on Big Money and Social Conflicts in the Covid-19 Era

    My take on a part of that discussion is that our ‘Leaders’ are making different Policy and Action decisions regarding handling their ‘Commodities’ versus handling their ‘Populations’ based on the desired and valued ROI.

    Reply
  9. Raj

    To be honest, in some instances Indian govt practices on pharma are quite bad. It is extremely hard in some instances to recoup investments at prices they ask for.

    Reply
  10. Susan the other

    This showdown, brought about by our own aggressiveness and sloppiness, imo, is frightening. Not because Covid is a terrible foe but because the US federal government does not know how to govern. We do not know how to write legislation that serves all people. Congress only knows how to throw fennel in the sausage. And if they run out of fennel, mouse turds will always do. They do not understand how to govern or even why it is necessary. They have not willingly learned, evolved or adapted to reality – ever. Name me one time. Nor has any president. The Supreme Court, the last word on any subject of justice, isn’t really the last word because Congress can legislate new laws to get around it. And around and around we go. Covid-19 is exposing us for what we are. A bag of rocks. And that exposure will cause TPTB to become reactionary. It’s not gonna be good.

    Reply
    1. Sue inSoCal

      Thank you writing what my response would be. Governing effectively for the good of the nation is exclusive of the quest for more and more money, bribery and thievery. The Supreme Court will not save us. The fascist five do not want accordance and compromise (see Sheldon Whitehouse). As was said here, the power of corporations is sacrosanct, to the point that covid19 is rendering people, and disproportionately people of color, collateral damage. In the area of big Pharma and Big Medical, for example, even if this seems a non sequitur, I don’t believe that most people realize how privatized Medicare is. (Medicare D? Completely privatized. United Health salespeople get commissions. USPS also has long been quietly privatizing. I know I’m going sideways here….) And regarding a vaccine, we have half the population that says they won’t take it. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-vaccine-half-americans-would-get/ Fauci might be chipping them.

      Reply
    2. rosemerry

      “The Supreme Court, the last word on any subject of justice”, has been turned into a vehicle for the rich only, gradually over decades but speeded up since Trump’s influence so that a normal human can never get a hearing.

      Reply
  11. Fergus Hashimoto

    The author misuses the term “public good”, which was defined long ago in economics. Whether a good is public or not does not depend on a decision by the good’s owner whether to charge a price for it or else to make it available without charge. Whether a good is public or private depends on the nature of the good, not on anybody’s decision. A public good is defined as a good that by its very nature cannot be withheld from potential consumers, and consequently any attempt to charge a price for it is doomed to failure, or else requires substantial changes in institutional arrangements.
    For instance fireworks displays are public goods. Making them private so as to be able to charge a price for viewing them would require erecting large and costly structures to screen them from public view.
    The decision that is the subject of this article is not whether to make a vaccine a public good, since that cannot be done. The decision is instead about irrevocably waiving patent rights to a vaccine.

    Reply
    1. JEHR

      “A public good is defined as a good that by its very nature cannot be withheld from potential consumers, and consequently any attempt to charge a price for it is doomed to failure, or else requires substantial changes in institutional arrangements.”

      “A private good is a product that must be purchased to be consumed, and consumption by one individual prevents another individual from consuming it. In other words, a good is considered to be a private good if there is competition between individuals to obtain the good and if consuming the good prevents someone else from consuming it.”

      A public good should be any product or service that is given freely to all who need it in order for them to live well: e.g., Banting and Best patented insulin for $1.00: ‘The patent would not be used for any other purpose than to prevent the taking out of a patent by other persons. When the details of the method of preparation are published anyone would be free to prepare the extract, but no one could secure a profitable monopoly.’

      There are definitions and then there are good practices.

      Reply
    2. ChrisPacific

      OK, so what’s the term for something that doesn’t meet this definition but is nonetheless generally accepted to be available to all as a right? Take drinking water, for example – which very clearly does not meet the definition of public good you’ve outlined in areas of scarcity. What would economists call that?

      Reply
  12. k teh

    Poor Jonas Salk. They always take what you build, twist it and use it against you.

    Public education is all about learning herd behavior, which is why most can’t learn STEM. Those who can learn both, to manage the herd for the owners in exchange for MMT income are the most dangerous. You send your kids to school to see what they are up against, but to take neither seriously, because both are tiny subsets of nature.

    Nature always builds a better vaccine, and all the data says so. Most see nature as the enemy because public education is designed to teach short term thinking.

    If you are going to build a business, and you should, think in terms of 10 years. That way, you are not subject to this pop goes the weasel economy. A mortgage is an anchor around your neck, so consider building a home when you retire and see what the world looks like then.

    Reply
  13. Bsoder

    “AIDS medicine was priced at $10,000 to $15,000 for a year’s supply, far beyond their reach. Finally, patent laws in India allowed people to get AIDS medicine at less than a dollar a day, or $350 for a year’s supply.”

    None of that is true. The standard treatment for HIV infected individuals is 2 pills containing 4 drugs, each cost $2000 a month, for a total of $4000. Or $36,000 a year. Maybe you get help in paying for them maybe not. In Michigan you do. $0.00. India decided to break an international treaty on humanitarian grounds to be able to make the drug for pennies. India was warned it would be treated harshly, badly, and all that. Nothing happened other than the prices stayed high in America. We could do without the greed we really could.

    Reply
  14. Sound of the Suburbs

    China and Russia are a problem.
    Don’t worry the Americans have come up with a cunning plan.

    They came up with this half-baked ideology called neoliberalism, which was a wrapper around dodgy, old, 1920s neoclassical economics.
    The Americans then repeated their 1920s mistakes.
    When Xi and Putin find out, they should die laughing.

    1929 and 2008 look so similar because they are; it’s the same economics and thinking.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAStZJCKmbU&list=PLmtuEaMvhDZZQLxg24CAiFgZYldtoCR-R&index=6
    At 18 mins.
    They did save the banks this time, which avoided another Great Depression.
    They left the debt in place, which caused a balance sheet recession.

    As a CEO, I can use the company’s money to do share buybacks, to boost the share price; get my bonus and top dollar for my shares.
    Share buybacks were found to be a cause of the 1929 crash and made illegal in the 1930s.

    What lifted US stocks to 1929 levels in 1929?
    Margin lending and share buybacks.
    What lifted US stocks to 1929 levels in 2019?
    Margin lending and share buybacks.
    A former US congressman has been looking at the data.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zu3SgXx3q4

    Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, observed what the capital accumulation of neoclassical economics did to the US economy in the 1920s.
    “a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped”

    The problem.
    Wealth concentrates until the system collapses.

    “The other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing.” Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48
    Your wages aren’t high enough, have a Payday loan.
    You need a house, have a sub-prime mortgage.
    You need a car, have a sub-prime auto loan.
    You need a good education, have a student loan.
    Still not getting by?
    Load up on credit cards.
    “When the credit ran out, the game stopped” Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48

    Reply

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