The announcement by the United States to support the suspension of the Covid-19 vaccine patents was a blow to the diplomatic master Joe Biden. In a single statement, Biden was able to overtake China, which had quickly gained in vaccine diplomacy. And at no cost.
So far, the Chinese have accumulated “soft power” by donating, transferring technology and selling vaccines to countries around the world. The United States, United Kingdom and European Union, by contrast, have won global antipathy by practicing vaccine nationalism – ensured sufficient stocks to immunize more than their entire population, while countless countries have not vaccinated even 1% of their inhabitants. They banned the export of inputs, violated deadlines, refused to give excess doses until they had vaccinated their entire population.
And behold, with a pen, Biden turns the game. The American, by aligning himself with India and South Africa by suspending patents and confronting the “cruel” pharmaceuticals that profit billions, steals the star to China and win the goodwill of the rest of the world. Without giving more than a single vaccine – or better, 4 million doses were sent to Canada and Mexico, a number which, given the scale of the problem, is symbolic and has contributed to Covax, which is a long time ago. behind in its promises.
Biden has the political advantage of taking a stand against inequalities in access to vaccines. But the effect of the decision is uncertain.
Negotiations at the World Trade Organization will take months, as they need consensus. Even if patents are suspended, it is necessary to ensure that pharmaceutical companies also transfer their know-how, otherwise it will be difficult for other countries to replicate the complex vaccine technology of Moderna and Pfizer, for example.