Are drug makers guilty for not vaccinating poor nations or government?
An excerpt from this morning's NY Times below. Here's my take on things,
Our pharma companies have come up with a vaccine that's far from perfect but pretty darn helpful. On the other hand, the fact that they're selling a product that is useful doesn't mean they have the obligation or even the ability to produce the drug and distribute it for the entire globe. The federal government has spent approx. $4 trillion on their COVID response, much of which has been ill spent. The cost to vaccinate the entire third world is less than $100 billion. That would be money well spent, to help curb new variants coming back to our shores (not to mention the humanitarian benefits).
On the other hand, 90% of the US population over 65 is currently vaccinated and 70% has received one dose. Many scientist don't believe we are under vaccinated and it's unclear if the new variants are more lethal. Earlier evidence shows just the opposite (although the may be more contagious).
Either way, the NY Times shouldn't be throwing darts at companies that develop world saving tech. They should aim their ire at the Dem controlled executive branch and congress that's screwing the pooch. That's unlikely. They're not in the business of speaking ill of their party.
From the NY Times
I have no idea, for instance, how individual drug-company executives feel about patent waivers and profits. Perhaps they lie awake at night wishing they could save more lives, perhaps they sleep soundly on piles of money. In a movie, that would matter, because their characters would drive the plot. But in the real world, individual character matters much less. C.E.O.s who sacrifice their companies’ profits for the public good are likely to be ousted by their boards of directors and replaced with someone more concerned with the bottom line. So any system that depends on them all independently and voluntarily waiving patent protections and profits is unlikely to succeed.
Overcoming that kind of problem requires sustained international cooperation between world leaders. But such international efforts require commitments from national leaders, who are also subject to limitations and incentives.
And many of the world’s richest democracies are struggling with political crises that pre-date the pandemic, and that have left their political institutions weak and fragmented. Rising extremism and democratic decline in the United States, Brexit and its political fallout in the United Kingdom, and the European Union’s struggle to maintain cohesion in the face of far-right extremism have left political leaders struggling to enact their agendas at home. They seem to feel they have little political capital left to use for international cooperation.
And those leaders’ failure to distribute vaccines to poor countries does not seem to have triggered a political backlash. (Actions like mask mandates and lockdowns, on the other hand, have occasionally led to backlash, particularly from the right.) Donating more vaccines and resources might be a solution to the pandemic, but it is not a solution to domestic political popularity.
The result is that vaccines have remained concentrated in wealthy countries, giving the virus a chance to mutate into deadly new variants and spread among unvaccinated populations in poor countries. (And even in wealthy countries, particularly the United States, misinformation and fear have led many to refuse the vaccine.) Scientists and public health experts have warned for months that the situation was likely to prolong the pandemic worldwide by allowing new, more dangerous variants to develop — as may now be happening with the Omicron variant that has now spread to at least 20 countries.
In movies, ragtag individuals doin’ the right thing is enough to save the world. But in the real world, when the problems are global and the difficulties systemic, that’s just not enough.