World War I for Vaccines – 16/03/2021 – Esper Kallás

After a long hesitation in 2020, everyone is hunting for vaccines to prevent Covid-19. What appeared to be a distant dream came true in one of the most fascinating developments in the history of medicine. It only took a semester for multiple vaccines to be used in dozens of countries. This was the greatest hope of confronting the pandemic.

Those who believed and invested made progress. Visionary countries have succeeded in implementing vaccination programs and they are benefiting from it: a significant decrease in deaths, a decrease in hospital stays, a decrease in the number of cases. In addition, economic recovery and gradual return to social activities.

At the same time, a deep breach was exposed: the difficulty some countries have in accessing the doses necessary to protect their populations.

Vaccines have always been “the ugly duckling” in the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. Due to the difficulty of protecting intellectual property and the generally low prices, they are under humanitarian pressure to be accessible.

That changed with the Covid-19 pandemic. The global emergency turned the scenario on its head and made vaccine development a priority, but revived profit as one of the prerequisites.

The numbers speak for themselves. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), we had 81 vaccines with clinical trials underway on March 12, 2021, and another 181 in the first phase of development. While many public institutes and laboratories have invested in these, there is no denying that the private sector saw a great opportunity.

A quick review of the number of doses projected by manufacturers that should be available by the end of the year hits an impressive 16 billion units, more than enough to vaccinate the entire world population.

The problem is the speed. And there are regional and economic interests here.

In the past few days there has been a rough exchange of allegations between representatives of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and between Australia and European countries, about possible restrictions on exports of supplies used to manufacture vaccines. It also stayed with the United States, which announced storage of over 100 million doses, even with the guarantee that it would have enough to vaccinate the entire American population.

The World Trade Organization, an organization that aims to regulate and facilitate trade between nations, has been looking for a way to minimize the problem and is trying to protect the intellectual property rights to vaccines and treatments (Trips Agreement) from Covid-19 during our stay suspend at the height of the pandemic.

The various rounds failed. Representatives from all developed countries voted against the suspension, while developing countries supported the proposal. With one exception: Brazil. Right, our country voted against a measure to increase access to vaccines in developing countries.

There is no doubt that the market acts as a regulator of productivity and is guided by the law of supply and demand. After all, it was through this impulse that many vaccines were discovered. But is it time for that?

We are sure that as we fry eggs, we need to invest in and expand local education. Despite the heroic efforts of the Brazilian institutions (highlights for Fiocruz and Butantane), the country will only find its own way if it increases its autonomy. Otherwise, like many others, he will be held hostage to protectionism. Even in difficult times like these.

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