The vaccine circus – 02/28/2021 – Mathias Alencastro

The global history of the novel coronavirus vaccination campaign is still in its early stages, but only the UK will have a Hollywood-worthy storyline.

When vaccine diplomacy became a reality in the middle of last year, Boris Johnson told Kate Bingham, a venture capital firm with three decades of experience in financing innovative products in the pharmaceutical industry, to negotiate with laboratories on behalf of London.

The logic behind this decision is simple: a team of public sector bureaucrats would never be able to navigate the ultra-competitive vaccine market in the midst of a pandemic.

Bingham has devised an aggressive strategy based on his professional relationship with laboratory executives, anticipating problems in the production chain and creating a diverse portfolio of vaccines.

The Prime Minister’s carte blanche made all the difference. According to his epic report to La Reppublica, “the first conversation with executives was on Thursday, the second meeting on Saturday, and by the end of the following week we already had the draft contract.”

The rest of the story is known. The distribution of vaccines purchased by the Bingham team was handled by the National Health Service, one of the most centralized health systems in the world.

With the help of countless volunteers, the NHS has already vaccinated 90% of the population over 70.

The recipe for British success is the alliance between state planners and market hawks.

When Communication Secretary Fábio Wajngarten attempted to rationalize the government’s misfortune in this Folha (“The Size and Order of Magnitude of Each Country”, 1/11), he opted for the absurd comparison between the Brazil and Israel, leaving out the British Cases. After all, he knows full well that Brazil, in normal times, would follow the strategy adopted by London.

With its traditional multilateral diplomacy, Brazil could speak to Asian and Western laboratories. Brazil’s national immunization plan is the envy of many developed countries.

Private sector actors could help design state strategy. A true capitalist would never have missed the opportunity to compete in the global vaccine market.

But Jair Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes were no match for Boris Johnson and Kate Bingham. The generalized incompetence of the central government has led to a savage decentralization of the process of purchasing vaccines and their distribution.

Last week, a mixture of voluntarism and desperation led the mayors of medium-sized towns to attempt to articulate the direct purchase of laboratories.

Incredibly, entrepreneurs known to spread the chloroquine theses have also announced a joint operation. What are the chances that these amateur attacks will be successful? Will they be able to compete with venture capitalists?

There is only one person responsible for this circus. Bolsonaro broke the backbone of the state when we needed it most. We could live like in the UK, but we risk dying like in Pakistan.

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