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Vaccines

US Spent 7.5 Times More On Nuclear Weapons Than Vaccine Donations

Since the pandemic began, the United States has spent 7.5 times more money on nuclear weapons than on global vaccine donations. Stated another way, the money put towards global vaccine donations has amounted to just 13% of the money put toward nuclear weapons. The comparison shows that, even during a shared international crisis, in which an outbreak anywhere threatens people everywhere, the U.S. political apparatus is far more willing to fund instruments of death than vaccines that protect life. Zain Rizvi, research director for the corporate watchdog organization Public Citizen, helped In These Times calculate the total number of dollars that went toward the purchase of global vaccine donations: roughly $7 billion. This number can be found by adding up contracts from the Department of Defense

We Need A Permanent TRIPS Waiver Mechanism

Two years into the pandemic, the trade rules that pose barriers to scaling up production of the vaccines, medicines, tests and other health products we dearly need have not been addressed, highlighting the need for an automatic mechanism to suspend problematic rules when a pandemic, other public health emergencies of international concern, or other exceptional circumstances arise, rather than leaving it to the murky politics of the World Trade Organization. On 15 March, the European Commission (EC) finally admitted that intellectual property rules pose a threat to vaccine access globally. The counterproposal that was leaked to the press is attributed to the quad of USA, the EC, India and South Africa, but only reflects positions from USA and the EC.

New ‘Compromise’ On IP Waiver For Covid Vaccines Is Worse Than No Deal

On Tuesday, after a year and a half of negotiations over an intellectual property waiver for Covid-related products, the United States, European Union, India and South Africa reportedly reached agreement on a temporary waiver of patent rules for Covid vaccines. “The difficult and protracted process has resulted in a compromise outcome that offers the most promising path toward achieving a concrete and meaningful outcome,” said U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson Adam Hodge in a statement. Global health activists, however, are slamming the tentative deal as not only insufficient, but a potential setback, because it excludes tests and treatments, includes a carveout for China, and introduces new barriers for the production of generic treatments that could have implications far beyond the Covid crisis.

European Union Prefers Corporate Profits Over Global Health

As the summit between the African Union and European Union (EU-AU summit) came to a close on February 18, the EU’s dedication to ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 products remained murky. While Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, stated that the two unions had a very constructive discussion on the TRIPS waiver, the meeting resulted in little more than a tepid statement and a new deadline for reaching an agreement on intellectual property rights during the pandemic. Von der Leyen also stated, “We share the same goal. We have different ways to reach that goal.” In reality, it would seem the AU and the EU have very different goals. While delegates from different African countries made a point of supporting a suspension of intellectual property rights on key Covid-19 products, EU politicians continue to focus their energies on postponing the TRIPS waiver as much as possible and protecting the profits of pharmaceutical companies based in the Global North.

Africa Is Bringing Vaccine Manufacturing Home

African countries continually find themselves at the back of the vaccine queue, but two developments could begin to change this narrative. Last week, researchers at a company in South Africa said that they have nearly completed the process of reproducing Moderna’s mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. Working with the WHO’s technology-transfer hub, the researchers at Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines in Cape Town made very small quantities of vaccine, based on Moderna’s data, but without the company’s involvement. The WHO advised them to copy Moderna’s vaccine in part because the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has said it will not enforce its COVID-19 patents during the pandemic.

Bank Blocks Donations Supporting Cuban Effort To Vaccinate World

Progressive International recently asked for contributions so they can send a delegation to Havana next week to promote Cuba's effort to vaccinate the world against Covid-19. But in an apparent genuflection to the illegal U.S. embargo against the island, Dutch multinational bank ING has blocked all donations supporting the trip, the group said Tuesday. "This is scandalous," said Progressive International (PI) general coordinator David Adler. "The U.S. wields unparalleled power over our global financial system," Adler continued. "Yesterday, a message received by our supporter revealed the far-reaching consequences of the U.S. embargo on Cuba: a European bank, established in the Netherlands, has decided to put the interests of the U.S. government above the lives of millions of people."

Texas Team Applauded For Giving What Big Pharma Refuses

A small team of Texas researchers is being hailed for developing an unpatented Covid-19 vaccine to share with the world without personal profit, with some advocates asking, if they can do it, why can't Big Pharma? Dubbed "the World's Covid vaccine," the inoculation—formally called Cobervax—is an open-source alternative to Big Pharma's patent-protected vaccines. Instead of being produced for profit, this shot could ultimately be manufactured around the world and made cheaply available to all without governmental or private legal retribution. Common Dreams reported this week that Cobervax—developed jointly by Texas Children's Hospital, Houston's Baylor College, and the Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E. Limited—was authorized for emergency use in India amid a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The Dangerous Misuse Of ‘Natural Immunity’ Against Covid Vaccination

One particularly pernicious myth going around in the US is the notion that “natural immunity,” gained from contracting Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is preferable to getting vaccinated. One prominent politician, Sen. Rand Paul (R.–Ky.), has declared that he refuses to get vaccinated, because of his belief that he has “natural immunity” since he’s “already had the disease” (Slate, 5/23/21). Now, the Republican Party is officially embracing its position as the anti-vaccine political party, advocating what they call “natural immunity” as an alternative or substitute to getting vaccinated, as the Associated Press (11/21/21) reported: Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity.

Carers Of The World Vs. Covid-19 Criminals

As we enter the third year of the Covid-19 crisis, two battles are underway. One is led by the carers of the world in overcrowded hospitals, fighting to end the pandemic. Another is by corporate executives in closed boardrooms, fighting to prolong it. The question at the very center of both is this — who will control medical recipes worth billions of dollars, and millions of lives? As some countries roll out booster programs, less than 6% of Africa’s more than a billion people have been fully inoculated. Big pharmaceutical companies are letting the pandemic go on — and why not, according to a recent estimate, Pfizer is expected to make astronomical profits —$107bn in cumulative sales by the end of 2022 on its Covid-19 vaccines, now being dubbed a “megablockbuster.”

Health Advocates Bring Pile Of Bones To Biden Chief Of Staff, Moderna CEO

Washington — Activists gathered outside the homes of the White House chief of staff and the CEO of Moderna to demand the Biden administration and private drug companies do more to address the global vaccine shortage. "Really, we're bringing attention to the fact that both Moderna and the U.S. government have been completely inadequate in scaling up vaccine access globally," James Krellenstein, co-founder of the AIDS advocacy group, PrEP4All told Sinclair Broadcast Group. Activists with PrEP4All, Health GAP, the Global Health Justice Partnership and experts in epidemiology and global health joined the protests which were staged simultaneously at White House chief of staff Ron Klain's house in Chevy Chase, Md. and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel's home in Cambridge, Mass.

Marxist Epidemiologist Calls Bullsh*t On Antivaxxers

Anti-scientific conspiracy theories are spreading, not just among the right, but even even among some segments of the left. To address this issue from a Marxist perspective, Rania Khalek spoke with Rob Wallace, an evolutionary epidemiologist at the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corps in St. Paul and author of “Dead Epidemiologists: On the Origins of COVID-19.” Rania asks "How do we as leftists deal with the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is the one that has the infrastructure to really rapidly produce these vaccines even if they're motivated by profit and not public good but at the same time they are making a massive profit? How do we deal with that contradiction?"

Open Letter By Cuban Scientists To Biden

You recently referred to Cuba at a White House saying: 'I would be prepared to give significant amounts of vaccines if… an international organization would administer those vaccines and do it in a way that average citizens would have access to those vaccines.' You also called Cuba a 'failed state'. These statements surprised many, including those in the U.S. who have first-hand exposure to Cuba's health system. They also rankled with frontline Cuban health workers risking their lives to contain the COVID epidemic in our country. They do not reflect Cuban reality, and we deplore that disinformation by malicious political players is influencing your policy decisions. As scientists, doctors, and concerned citizens, we believe it's worth fact-checking three assumptions implicit in what you said.

Only International Solidarity Can Defeat Covid For Good

In early March of this year, I was in a hospital bed in Delhi for a week following a Covid diagnosis. This was just about four weeks before the second wave hit the country, showcasing the dystopic deadliness of the virus. It was strangely calm at that time with fewer than ten Covid patients at the facility; the same hospital was recently treating close to 400. I’d occasionally chat with the nurses who recalled the ‘Covid times’ earlier in the year when each nurse had to attend to up to a dozen patients at a time. But thankfully that, they said, was in the past; the virus had been controlled. Later, I thought of those nurses and how in a mere few weeks their lives had been upended, of the nightmare they were living through. How many patients were they attending to during the latest peak: 25, 30, 40? Were they themselves OK? Not all of them had been vaccinated.

The Drug Companies Are Killing People

After the Biden administration indicated its support for this limited waiver, many other rich countries signed on as well. Germany, under longtime chancellor Angela Merkel, has been largely left alone to carry water for the pharmaceutical industry in opposing the vaccine waiver. I had the chance to confront the industry arguments directly last week in a web panel sponsored by the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (link included when it becomes available). It’s always educational to see these arguments up close and real people actually making them. The first line of defense is that the waiver of patent rights by itself does not lead to any increase in vaccine production. This is of course true. Vaccines have to be manufactured, eliminating patent rights is not the same thing as manufacturing vaccines.

Black People’s Reasons For Not Getting Vaccinated Are Much Deeper

By early July 2021, nearly two-thirds of all U.S. residents 12 years and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 55% were fully vaccinated. But uptake varies drastically by region – and it is lower on average among non-white people. Many blame the relatively lower vaccination rates in communities of color on “vaccine hesitancy.” But this label overlooks persistent barriers to access and lumps together the varied reasons people have for refraining from vaccination. It also places all the responsibility for getting vaccinated on individuals. Ultimately, homogenizing peoples’ reasons for not getting vaccinated diverts attention away from social factors that research shows play a critical role in health status and outcomes.
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