NYT - Covid Too Critical to Be Left to the Private Sector
Back to the future. Move over, Big Pharma. It's time for governments to take the reins in times of catstrophe.
Today's New York Times editorial urges a greater role for the public sector over corporate giants in times of global emergency. They're right.Low- and middle-income nations are facing an unconscionable shortage of coronavirus vaccines that threatens to upend progress against the pandemic.
So far, this global shortage has been obscured by pockets of vaccine abundance in wealthier countries like the United States. But if the shortage isn’t addressed soon, the trouble will become all too clear. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people will continue to get sick and die, even as the pandemic recedes in richer nations. The most fragile economies will continue to teeter, and gains made elsewhere will eventually be imperiled: The longer the virus spreads, the greater the chance it mutates into something even more contagious, deadly or vaccine-resistant.
Then, as the vaccines came to market, some vaccine makers insisted on sweeping liability protections that further imperiled access for poorer countries. The United States, for example, is prohibited from selling or donating its unused doses, as Vanity Fair has reported, because the strong liability protections that drugmakers enjoy here don’t extend to other countries.
In other countries, Pfizer has reportedly not only sought liability protection against all civil claims — even those that could result from the company’s own negligence — but has asked governments to put up sovereign assets, including their bank reserves, embassy buildings and military bases, as collateral against lawsuits.
...Companies and countries are hoarding both raw materials and technical expertise, and have prevented poorer nations from suspending patents despite international treaties that allow for such measures in emergencies.