Ang Bayan
August 07, 2020

Covid-19 vaccine, greedy Big Pharma

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To cover up his his regime’s inutility and incompetence in controlling that Covid-19 pandemic in the country, the phrase “wait for a vaccine” has already become Rodrigo Duterte’s mantra. He has given no support to Filipino scientists in the effort to discover one. His P10 million bounty to first discoverers is worthless without funding for research. In addition, he has done nothing to change the country’s lack of capacity to manufacture vaccines and its overdependence on foreign drug exports.

The regime has no plans to vaccinate the majority of Filipinos. According to Duterte, the government will only pay for the vaccination of 20 million of the “poorest” out of 110 million Filipinos. This is notwithstanding the 30 million students, teachers and staff he promised before opening classes, health workers and workers working in unsafe factories and workplaces. Worse, Duterte already said he would prioritize the military. He repeatedly whines that he is out of money, despite the $8 billion his regime borrowed using the pandemic.

Big Pharma’s monopolistic control

Monopoloy capitalists in the pharmaceutical industry control the research, manufacturing, distribution and pricing of drugs and vaccines all over the world. The biggest of them are Johnson & Johnson (US), Roche (Switzer­land), Si­nop­harm (Chi­na), Pfizer (US), Ba­yer (Ger­many), Novar­tis (Switzer­land), Merck & Co. (US), GlaxoSmithKli­ne (UK), Sa­nofi (France) and AbbVie (US). In 2019, these companies combined earnings rose to $512 billion.

The abovementioned companies are competing to develop the Covid-19 vaccine. They are in a race for a vaccine, not out of humanitarian reasons or some lofty aims, but to control the entire or majority of the market and ensure huge profits. Pfizer has already earned $2 billion during the first three months of the pandemic. This is on top of its $16 billion profit in 2019. Johnson & Johnson, on the other hand, is set to rake in an additional $5-billion in profits this year, almost double of what it earned during the same period last year.

As of July 28, there are already candidate vaccines but only 25 are in clinical trials and five have reached the third and last phase of testing. These are vaccines developed by Pfizer (US) at BioNTech (Ger­many), Mo­der­na (US), Oxford at AstraZe­neca Plc (UK), Si­novac (Chi­na) and Si­nop­harm (Chi­na). Sa­nofi (France) and GlaxoSmithKli­ne’s (UK) vaccine, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s (US), are in the first and second phase. Their Phase 3 will commence on September.

These companies are developing vaccines apart from each other and are jealously guarding thier experiments. No one can be sure of the truth from their press releases if a breakthrough is near. This is in line with the tactic of manipulating the capitalist markets and pushing the value of their products and shares in the stock market.

Industry experts say that a vaccine will be available probably at the end of 2021 and will most likely be approved but for emergency-use only. In the past, the shortest time for a vaccine to be licensed is after five to seven years of continous development.

The experimental vaccines are in the stage of being tested for safety and efficacy. Oxford’s vaccine has reported side effects of body pains, malaise and fever. The same side effects were observed in Moderna’s vaccine. None of the five vaccines are expected to be licensed by the end of he year.

Even so, imperialist countries have been competing in snapping up supplies. Governments in imperialist countries already have supply agreements with these companies for 250 million doses even as the vaccines are in the experimental stage. Among them is the UK which is al­rea­dy in an agreement with Glaxo­SmithKli­ne and Sa­nofi to buy ­­60 million doses. This in addition to 100 million doses it has already bought from Oxford/AstraZe­neca Plc.

The US, on the other hand, already have a supply agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech for 60 million doses worth $1.8 billion. The Eu­ro­pe­an Uni­on and Ja­pan also have supply agreements with the said companies.

Amid the intense competition, more than a billion doses have already been bought or promised even before a vaccine is manufactured. This means the rest of the countries will have to compete against each other or wait until Big Pharma go into more mass production. If the world’s population is to be covered, these companies will have to produce 14 billion doses for a 2-dose vaccine. This will take time, as there have been estimates that it will take up to the first quarter of 2022 to manufacture a billion doses.

Due to the intense competition among imperialist countries, intentions to bring about fair sharing of vaccines by the alliance Covax will become moot. The alliance is headed by the World Health Organization, and Coa­li­ti­on of Epi­de­mic Pre­pa­red­ness and is comprised of 145 poor nations. The Philippines is part of Covax.

AB (2020-08-07): Covid-19 vaccine, greedy Big Pharma