There are many reasons for this division, but the unequal access to health care — especially the glaring disparity in access to covid vaccines — is impossible to ignore. On January 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Ghebreas, found that more than 39 million people had been vaccinated against the covid vaccine in at least 49 high-income countries. In contrast, he said, “In a low-income country only 25 doses are given. Not 25 million; Not 25 finger; Only 25. “
More than a billion vaccine doses are now given worldwide, but there are many discrepancies. The Seychelles topped the list with 59% of fully vaccinated citizens, followed by Israel (56%), Chile (34%), and the United States (30%). However, Brazil ranks 43rd worldwide, with only 5.9% of the population being vaccinated, with India and Bangladesh at 1.8% and 1.7%, respectively. And in some countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, virtually no one has been vaccinated.
While the Kovid vaccine is as important a good as food and shelter, we should be ashamed of such serious inequalities. To make matters worse, most rich countries are stockpiling more vaccines than they need as a precautionary buffer.
Until a few months ago, activists for access to drugs and open science were hopeful that the epidemic would lead to the rejection of monopoly ownership and patent-based market monopolies. For example, in May 2020, WHO launched the Global Kovid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TOP), which aims to promote the widespread voluntary sharing of intellectual property related to the epidemic.
Similarly, the Kovid-19 vaccine Global Access, or Kovacs facility, which was established last year, is required to provide subsidized vaccines to poor countries with financial assistance from the rich world. Even then, Alexander Zychika seemed to resonate with a common sense — recently written The New Republic, “The sense of optimism and opportunity that defined the early days is long gone.”
If we reflect that the world has failed to have equal access to Kovid vaccines, we are less likely to leave poor countries in the future. Failure is intellectual and moral. With the best intentions, the plans and proposals of many activists paid less attention to personal incentives. While it is right to promote corporations to behave ethically, it is foolish to think that they are ethical.
Instead of people investing in knowledge creation and trying to make money, we can ive about the future that will bring their results to the open-access pool. But we are not clear yet. At present, private players must be allowed to acquire rights over the intellectual property they create.
At the same time, ce has the potential to significantly reduce the profits of pharmaceutical companies — by allowing products to be sold more cheaply and for general producers to sell in certain areas — without killing the pharmaceutical industry’s incentives to spend on research.
To do this properly, we need to understand the structure of markets for knowledge-based products such as new vaccines. Right now, we don’t: The ‘market’ is a mishmash of competition and side deals. According to a recent journal from the Institute for New Economic Thinking, governments and pharmaceutical companies concluded 44 bilateral Kovid vaccine agreements last year, many of which contain unknown details and poorly understood escape terms. Poor countries remain large.
We need a theoretical framework to understand this market. Today, it is similar to what Oligopolis was like before Augustine Cornett seized its necessities in 1838. Agreements to raise prices. These laws gradually became sharper.
Today, we are making vaccine-market rules in the fog of uncertainty. From the little we know, it is clear that intellectual property (IP) rights must at least still play a role. Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, are making far more profits than they need to sustain their incentives for new innovations (especially how much their IP has been earned through publicly funded research). In a big epidemic like the current one, we have to compensate pharmaceutical companies with lump sum payments to cover costs, withdraw some of their patents and allow ordinary companies to mass-produce the required vaccines.
In the long run, we can go further by emphasizing that the success of society does not depend solely on profit.
The famous motto is “None of us is safe until everyone is safe”, asking the rich to be more selfish because it is for their own benefit to help others. But a clear call to start thinking beyond the narrowness of the epidemic is to recognize the limitations of financial rationality and the interests of others as our own.
Kaushik Basu is a former Chief Financial Adviser to the Government of India and Professor of Economics at Cornell University
© 2021 / Project Syndicate