Abolish the patents on those vaccines!

“Living alongside the coronavirus” is the new mantra of the Bennett-Lapid “Government of Change,” based on the tenets of top epidemiologists. The coronavirus, we are told, “is here to stay.” In contrast to Netanyahu’s populist stance, which saw vaccination as the means to eradicate the pandemic, under Bennett and Lapid the vaccine is supposed to enable the public to live with the virus. In their opinion, the way to do this is to endlessly vaccinate yourself, that is, to go for the booster shot as a means of preventing lockdowns and lowering the infection rate, even if it does not completely flatten it.

Therefore, as of October 1, anyone who received two doses more than five months ago will be considered unvaccinated if they refuse to take a booster third shot. The “green pass” will be taken from them; they will therefore be excluded from public events and be ostracized.   

The United States lags behind Israel by a month, yet even there the American administration is calling for a third dose to be administered as early as September, coining the slogan “this is the pandemic of the unvaccinated.” The percentage of those refusing to be vaccinated in the U.S. is very high and it overlaps with the political rift tearing American society apart: the Democrats are getting vaccinated, while the Republicans are refusing.

While there is much truth in the administration’s declaration that the pandemic is of the unvaccinated, it is not the whole truth. The Biden administration refers to those 100 million American citizens who refuse vaccination, but there are the billions of people in poor countries who want to be vaccinated but cannot. That is why 4.5 million people in the world have already died from COVID-19 and have not been able to ‘live alongside it’. All of them are victims of a criminal health policy that puts the profits of the so-called “big pharma” drug companies above the needs of humanity.

“The end will only come when the whole world becomes ill or vaccinated. It will take a long time,'” says Israel’s number one expert in virology, Prof. Gili Regev from the Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital (Ynet 20/8/21).  Regev is expressing the cruel and absurd paradigm on which Israel’s epidemiological position is built, that is, “living alongside the coronavirus.” Regev is saying that until we reach herd immunity of 70% for all of humanity, which requires 11 billion vaccine doses, we will continue to live with the virus. We will fall ill, we will die, or recover, and we will continue to be vaccinated every few months.

The interesting question is, if epidemiological logic clearly indicates that the sole way to eradicate the coronavirus is to vaccinate the entire world, why does Professor Regev shy away from the question: what prevents the vaccine from reaching the whole world? Professor Regev knows the answer to this question, as does Dr. Fauci, the world’s number one expert in infectious diseases. They refrain from touching it because they too are captives of big pharma.

To vaccinate the whole world, one has to give up the patents registered in the names of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, companies which earn billions from the pandemic. Prof. Regev, Dr. Fauci and in fact almost the entire medical establishment situated at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus, will not touch the sacred cow of the modern capitalist regime: intellectual property. In fact, the pandemic revealed that the sanctity of intellectual property transcends the sanctity of life itself. Intellectual property, or in simple language the ‘patent’, the abolition of which is key to eradication of the coronavirus, remains in the hands of pharma company shareholders, whose whole purpose is to put fat dividends into their overflowing pockets.

Almost all scientific research is funded by the big drug companies. Thus, they gain a monopoly not only on drug production but also on scientific research, which turns intellectual property into an untouchable topic not to be discussed or criticized. The absurdity is that research is therefore legitimate as long as it generates profits. Entire branches of medical science are neglected because they are not considered profitable. Ever since government in Israel withdrew from the public arena and privatized entire sectors of health, education and social welfare, capital has become the primary player determining the fate of human beings. Not only has this created social disparities that endanger the democratic regime, capital is today leading humanity to an unnecessary health disaster.

To understand the extent of the absurdity, let us look at the position paper published by The People’s Vaccine, which unites world-renowned personalities and organizations. This paper discusses Covax, which was established in a partnership between Bill Gates and the World Health Organization with the aim of vaccinating the impoverished world. Covax’s policy has collapsed. Gates’ insistence on preventing the abolition of patents, resulting in exorbitant vaccine prices, has resulted in a vaccination rate of only 1% in poor countries.

The position paper states that the production cost of one vaccine dose is about $1.18, but that the published prices demonstrate that countries have paid 4 to 24 times more. Since the priority in vaccine distribution goes to the highest bidder, 90% of all production goes to rich countries. The paper holds that Pfizer and Moderna charged $41 billion more than the estimated cost of production.

The Israeli Ministry of Health published a censored version of its agreement with Pfizer, intending to reassure its citizens that the confidential medical details of the vaccinated will not reach Pfizer. Only one figure does not appear and will not appear in the published agreement, and that is the amount the government paid for the Pfizer vaccines. Well, not only is intellectual property sacred, but so is the so-called “trade secret”. In other words, the price of the vaccine should not be publicly known, so that Pfizer can charge any price it pleases regardless of the production cost.

Israel, for its part, is doing everything to promote Pfizer. From a serological study at the Sheba Tel Hashomer Hospital to comprehensive research on the vaccine’s effectiveness and side effects, conducted jointly by the Clalit HMO and Harvard University on about two million Israelis.  That is, in exchange for a continuous supply at a price of $30 per vaccine, compared to the $14-19 paid by the European Union, Israel does Pfizer’s public relations. We don’t need to be convinced that the vaccine is important and beneficial, we know that. At the same time, we understand that the third shot, which is unequally distributed between rich and poor, does not bring about the end of the pandemic. This unequal division is described by the Director General of the World Health Organization himself, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as “vaccine apartheid.”

The way in which Israel, the United States and the rest of the rich world are behaving is not only selfish and immoral, but epidemiologically inefficient. The abolition of intellectual property for this vaccine, for the sake of the rich and the poor, is the only way to end this pandemic. Furthermore, it can be done. By its total reliance on the third dose, without addressing the Covid 19 crisis in the poorer countries, the Israeli government is short-sighted. Those poor countries are the ones from which new mutations will come. The real breach is not Ben Gurion Airport, the gateway to new variants, it is the millions of unvaccinated people throughout the world who continue to get sick, enabling the virus to evolve. In failing to act on this elementary fact, the Bennett-Lapid government is driven by the same nationalist blindness that views the fate of Israelis as detached from the fate of humanity.

We say to our country and to every rich country: Instead of waiting for the enemy at home, go out to the world and eliminate the chances of further mutation. Most importantly, abolish the patents!

About Yacov Ben Efrat