Why is Biden unable to confront the lobby of companies producing Covid-19 vaccines?
Washington- Some experts blame vaccine companies such as Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson for the slow vaccination process in third world countries due to their refusal to give up patent rights in favor of countries. poor.
These experts attacked the US administration for what they describe as the inaction of the administration of President Joe Biden in pushing pharmaceutical companies to give up intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines.
Biden had twice called on companies that produce Corona virus vaccines to agree to waive intellectual property rights for vaccines to be manufactured around the world, which would allow them to be provided at cheap or free prices to more than half of the Earth’s population who have not yet received any vaccination against the Corona virus.
The first time that Biden called for the relinquishment of intellectual property rights came last May, which led to these companies launching a sharp attack on him, which succeeded in removing the issue from the discussions of American public opinion related to confronting the virus.
With the continuation of the outbreak of the Omicron mutant over the past weeks, Biden renewed his invitation, after canceling a scheduled meeting of the member states of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, due to fears of infection with the new mutant.
“The news about the new strain should explain more than ever why this pandemic does not end until we have globally available vaccines,” Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.
Biden’s calls came at a time when the rates of infection with the Corona virus or its variants, which began in Delta and reached Omicron, are rising inside and outside the United States.
Biden considered what the world is going through as a “global health crisis, and exceptional circumstances that call for exceptional measures.” Although the US administration strongly believes in protecting intellectual property, it declares its support for an exemption from that protection for Covid-19 vaccines.
The shares of major pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines, led by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, fall significantly every time Biden demands that they give up their intellectual property rights.
The game is a strong opponent
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Authority expressed its vocal opposition to the Biden administration’s support for waiver of intellectual property protection. Members of the trade group include vaccine makers and major drug manufacturers in the United States.
“In the midst of a deadly pandemic, the Biden administration has taken an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and undermine safety,” the agency’s Executive Director Stephen Obe said. “Such calls will sow confusion among public and private partners, further weakening already strained supply chains, and boosting the spread of vaccines. counterfeit.”
On the other hand, this past summer, a lobby group representing several major pharmaceutical companies campaigned against President Biden’s desire to support a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
PhRMA, a lobbying group representing the interests of more than 30 pharmaceutical companies, designed a digital advertising campaign on Facebook, Google and Twitter targeting Biden’s desire to retract his call to waive intellectual property protection for vaccines.
The association issued a statement saying, “Biopharmaceutical research companies are committed to creating a level playing field worldwide for COVID-19 vaccines, which is why we educate decision makers and citizens about our ongoing efforts to increase the supply of vaccines to meet global demand. We also educate politicians about the risks of compromise. On protecting intellectual property, and the need to address the real issues that drive unequal distribution of vaccines.”
Reports show that the association lobbied the Executive Office of the President as well as the Department of Health and Human Services on “international intellectual property issues and market access policies”.
Data issued by the Center for Responsive Politics indicate that Pharma has spent more than $30 million during the first half of this year, in its campaign to refuse to give up intellectual rights to produce vaccines, at a time when it spent more than 25 million in 2020.
The World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization are calling on the countries of the world to quickly reach the details of an agreement to relax rules related to the protection of intellectual property in vaccines. India (Delta Mutagen Source) and South Africa (Omicron Mutant Source) are leading efforts to mitigate, if temporarily, intellectual property rights that prevent increased production of vaccines in developing countries.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised Biden’s position as “a tremendous moment in the fight against Covid-19 that reflects the moral leadership of the White House in the struggle to end the epidemic.”
Practical and legal obstacles
Experts argued about patent rights, and what the White House could do. Many commentators considered that intellectual rights to vaccines are not the main obstacle to producing more vaccines for countries that need them most. Some also point out that such agreements could hurt companies’ incentives to innovate during future pandemics.
Kellie Williams, a former lawyer in the US Trade Representative’s office, attacked Biden’s desire for vaccine rights, and said, “This is a huge misstep on the part of the Biden administration. What will happen will not increase the distribution of vaccines and will widen China’s ability to confront American innovation to advance its diplomatic goals related to vaccines.”
She added, “The most consistent solution for the Biden administration is to improve the competitiveness of the United States, and to preserve employment opportunities in America in order to produce and export more American vaccines.”
On the other hand, a legal expert confirmed in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that “the US administration has no constitutional or legal powers through which it can compel any private company to exclusively give up its legally documented intellectual rights.”
The expert, who asked not to be named or her employer, indicated that in some exceptional cases, such as wars or major disasters, the White House can pressure and exploit its political weight to compel these companies to give up their intellectual rights. In some cases, this happens quietly by offering huge financial incentives, which the Biden administration has not yet offered to these companies.