New Delhi, May 8, 2021: Patents come first or lives? As India struggles for medical oxygen and medicines amid the horrific second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s richest countries have literally been possessively holding on to patents or intellectual property rights (IPR) on Covid-19 vaccines.
It took plenty of debate and pressure from dozens of governments – including India – to eventually persuade the US to agree on sharing IPR on vaccines or vaccine knowhow with the rest of the world.
Until then, the US-led West – loosely the G7 nations that are often under the thumb of influential pharma companies – tried to stonewall. They tried to keep the World Trade Organization (WTO) guessing.
From the attitude that they showed in briefly holding on to vaccine IP rights, it is amply clear that they care only for patents, not human lives.
This handedness of the West was best encapsulated in an outrageous remark made this month by tycoon Bill Gates. In an interview with Sky News, the seemingly benevolent man said, “Vaccine formula should not be shared with the developing nations.”
The shocking remark exposed what’s on the mind of the Microsoft cofounder, who has his finger in the pie of the vast vaccine business. It’s concerning because if it’s not a one-off remark, then we know that the world’s richest and most influential people blatantly don’t want the West to share Covid vaccine tech.
Sadly, it is another matter that Bill Gates and his likes don’t care about what we think of them.
Point is, India should and must know who its enemies are. It’s a killer pandemic raging out there, and a bunch of powerful people, powerful corporates and powerful governments are reluctant to share IPR on Covid vaccines.
Much earlier, in one of our video stories, we had shown how the richest countries in the world have been hoarding Covid vaccines, totalling about a billion doses. The culprits? Well, you guessed it right, the expected line-up: United States, UK, Japan, Australia and the European Union.
Out of the first 200 million Covid vaccines administered at the time we published the video, 45% were given to the G7 countries. That’s the reality. Watch the video below.
The WHO’s (World Health Organisation) Covid-19 technical lead, Dr Maria van Kerkhove, sees the vaccine distribution inequity as “grotesque”. Ever since Covid vaccinations and distribution of jabs have been underway, less than 1% of low-income countries have accessed the life-saving shots.
Van Kerkhove warned, “We need those vaccines to be distributed around the world. The inequity that we have seen with vaccine distribution is grotesque. Less than 1% of low-income countries have access to the Covid vaccine and that is a moral outrage around the world. We’re not faulting those who have access to the vaccine, but we need more sharing of these doses through (the WHO’s) COVAX (vaccine distribution programme).”
The second wave of the pandemic has held India by the scruff of the neck. The West is well aware of it. The same West that is home to the world’s most resourceful pharma companies. Yet, India is falling woefully short of the number of doses to vaccinate the entire public.
Vaccine giants have been known to be playing ugly games with some governments around the world.
It has been claimed that Pfizer, one of the vaccine emperors, had allegedly asked for control over military bases, embassy buildings and other state-owned, public-funded structures from a few Latin American governments as as mortgage against lawsuits, claims or losses. But they were denied.
But the US and UK have already accepted some of the demands, the ones related to claims and lawsuits.
The same Pfizer company has now come to India to manufacture Covid vaccines with partner BioNTech.
Expectedly, in India, the company has asked for some form of ‘indemnity’. It simply means they want to be insulated against responsibility and accountability.
Covid-ravaged India is in desperate need for vaccines, and in such desperate times, anybody who can make a workable vaccine is welcome.
But we still have to be hawk-eyed and watch out for the fine print and the hidden agenda behind every vial of vaccine that comes from the land of these whitewashed ’empires’.
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