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COVID-19 Vaccine: Rich First, Corporate Greed, Have Mercy on Us All

The pandemic will not “end when all people in Europe have been immunized”, “but only when the virus has been defeated worldwide”.

This was enforced at the recently concluded World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) summit in Cancun when former Colombian president Santos echoed US President Biden’s words:

“No one will be safe until everyone is safe.”

These words initiated an open letter signed by 170 heads of state and Nobel prize recipients to President Biden to work on this issue immediately.

Today Biden indicated the US Government is currently discussing the patent issue with the World Trade Organization and others.

In particular, “the hoarding of vaccines”, as practiced in the USA in particular, undermines “the global efforts to ensure that all people everywhere are protected from Covid-19,” stated a representative from Amnesty International: “If this situation is not changing, the interests and profits of a few will determine the fate of the majority. “

Unused potential

The appeal, which is supported by, among others, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam International, Bread for the World, and Medico International – organizations whose statements Germany likes to refer to in order to legitimize foreign policy aggression against foreign states – is linked to a large number of earlier appeals for statements and political activities with identical objectives.

On October 2, 2020, India and South Africa submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to suspend the patents on Covid-19 vaccines at least for the duration of the pandemic.

This move was supported by hundreds of MPs, trade unions, and scientists in the EU and the US, where major vaccine companies are headquartered.

It was also supported by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Millions have signed petitions to this effect.

Estimates have been circulating for weeks that currently less than half of all production capacities available worldwide are used to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines: Mighty potential is untapped.

The rich first

The release of vaccine patents prevented by the EU including the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, and Great Britain as well as the United States, all of which belong to the affluent part of the world prevented access to vaccine to many regions on the globe.

According to a current list obtained by the AFP news agency, currently produced vaccine has inoculated 47 percent of the doses delivered to date – a good billion – among its residents, who of course make up barely 16 percent of the world’s population.

In contrast, the poorest countries in the world, where almost 10 percent of the global population live, have received just 0.2 percent of all vaccine doses delivered to date, and twelve countries have even received nothing. In the responsible WTO body (“TRIPS Council”), the rich countries last week protested against the urging of India, in particular, to finally give in on patents.

India has been under particular pressure since the pandemic escalated there and caused the health system to collapse. The total blockade of the rich countries led to an emotional “outbreak” at the latest meeting of the TRIPS Council, reported Indian media.

It is foreseeable that it will not be possible to immunize the population of the poorer world without addressing the patent issue

Billion in profits

What exactly Berlin, Brussels and Washington are trying to secure with their patent blockade are exemplified by the sales and profit expectations of the group duo BioNTech / Pfizer.

Unlike AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, who have promised to sell their vaccines at production prices without a profit until the end of the pandemic, BioNTech and Pfizer are already making huge profits.

Pfizer announced in February that it expects sales of the Covid-19 vaccine to jump in sales of around 15 billion US dollars with a profit margin of almost 30 percent; that would be a profit of over $ 4 billion. Because Pfizer and BioNTech share the vaccine business on a 50/50 basis, the Mainz, Germany based company can expect a similar profit – possibly even more.

In Germany the company markets the vaccine alone. The fact that the EU recently placed a follow-up order of 1.8 billion vaccine doses from BioNTech / Pfizer for the period from the end of 2021 to 2023 has been criticized by experts because the Union is thereby “making itself dependent on a single manufacturer” .

For the two companies, however, it is a guarantee of a unique deal.

Opportunity for Germany as a business location Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company until the sale of its generics division, could hope to “return to the top this year – and more profitably than before. This is thanks to the pandemic profits, according to business circles.

BioNTech, on the other hand, so far a medium-sized company with a turnover of fewer than 110 million euros in 2019, is to gradually become an “independent, fully integrated pharmaceutical company” according to the plans of its main investor Thomas Strüngmann.

The chance that this will succeed exists in Germany for the first time “in decades”. The mRNA technology on which the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine is based on is classified by experts as the medical technology of the future with an enormous business potential.

Oliver Schacht, chairman of the biotech entrepreneurs’ association BIO, is quoted as saying: “It’s a global billion-dollar markets: The breakthrough that BioNTech has achieved is” a great opportunity for Germany as a biotech location “. Of course, this stands in the way of the possible release of vaccine patents: If you accept them, then “the new mRNA technology could fall into the hands of Russia and China,” according to industry circles

Filled off with symptom treatment Accordingly, Germany continues to refuse to release the patents – and is instead trying to satisfy India with aid deliveries.

They are working on a “support mission”, said government spokesman Steffen Seibert yesterday; The supply of oxygen systems, ventilators, and medication come into question. The EU is planning similar aid.

The Biden administration has also promised to supply oxygen systems, medicines, and basic vaccine materials for the Indian vaccine manufacturers. In India, the fact that the USA had blocked the export of certain raw materials had recently caused serious resentment.

While Berlin and Washington are making contributions to treating symptoms, they are keeping to themselves the vaccine patents that could bring real help to India.

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.