If I am not for Pfizer, who will be for me?

To help celebrate Israel’s 73rd Independence Day this past April, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was invited to light a torch on behalf of Diaspora Jewry. Although he was not present at the ceremony, he sent a recorded greeting saying, “We have shown that there is a path back to normal, and that definitely is something the entire world can celebrate.” In reality we did not return to normal. And while the whole world is watching in panic as the epidemic spreads, among the only ones who can celebrate is none other than Bourla himself, having sold his shares in Pfizer for $5.6 million. His salary also increased by a considerable percentage, amounting to $21 million last March. Netanyahu, for whom Bourla counts as a personal friend, poured all his love for him into vaccines as a strategy to get clear of COVID-19, transforming Bourla into Israel’s darling. In fact, relations with Bourla have become more important than relations with the White House, and the strategic alliance between Pfizer and the State of Israel has become the central axis in the struggle against the pandemic.

However, less than a month after Independence Day, it became clear that Pfizer’s vaccine did not provide a complete solution. Its effectiveness wanes within half a year, and a third dose is now required, whose date of waning is unknown.

Meanwhile, the health systems in Israel and the United States are in disarray. The debates between scientists are growing, and the rift between the political system and the scientific community is widening. This is because the vaccine strategy as a sole solution has collapsed, and the evidence is that Israel, the most vaccinated country in the world, was also the country where the number of verified cases in August and September was amongst the highest. In addition, neither Israel nor the United States have succeeded in convincing entire publics to get vaccinated. This reality does not deter Joe Biden and Naftali Bennett.

When the Biden administration announced provision of booster shots to all citizens of the US even before the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this, it commenced a direct confrontation with this agency. Interestingly, Dr. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor, relied on the Israeli experience to try and persuade the FDA of the booster’s necessity. He gained, however, only half his wish. The FDA restricted the booster to people 65 and older and to those with compromised immune systems. Then, however, the agency responsible for public health, the Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), expanded booster eligibility to include most public servants. The debate between Biden and the FDA has damaged not only the credibility of the U.S. administration, but that of the entire health care system, whose reputation was already damaged because of its failure to treat the pandemic, as evidenced by the nearly 700,000 who have died.

In Israel, too, a crisis broke out between the health care and political systems, culminating in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s rather delusional attack on the Israeli health care system in his speech to the UN General Assembly. It was as if he had no other platform from which to blame the health care professionals for “not seeing the full picture.” Bennett attacked the experts who had warned that relying on vaccines without other means, such as the prevention of big gatherings, would not halt the pandemic. This crisis stems from the simple fact that the vaccination strategy does not work if restricted to the wealthy nations alone. Not only does the situation cast a heavy shadow on the integrity of politicians, it also raises doubts about the objectivity of the experts, scientists and doctors in charge of public health.

The crisis of trust was created due to the unreliability of those who initially claimed that two vaccine shots had finally saved us from COVID-19, and after being proven wrong they moved on to a new theory, that one should “live alongside the coronavirus” using the booster. In the next wave they will be inventing a new theory and a fourth booster, and so forth. The public is tired of living alongside the coronavirus, and it lives as if there is no virus at all. The results were evident in hospitals and intensive care units, where staff were pushed to the limit, although as of now (the beginning of October) numbers are receding.

What doctors and researchers do not say out loud is the simple epidemiological fact: There is no national solution for the coronavirus! Either the whole world will be vaccinated or the virus and all of its mutations will continue to plague us. The great failure of the experts is probably due to cowardice. “The coronavirus is here to stay” they say, but do not explain why, when the answer is simple and painful: only 1.5% of the citizens of poor countries have been vaccinated, while rich countries have accumulated 85% of all vaccines. This gap is the epidemiological omission that allows the virus to develop mutations and strains like Delta.

We talked about cowardice. So here’s the sad reality: the medical community around the world has in fact become a hostage of Big Pharma companies. These companies are responsible for everything that moves in the world of medicine, from research and drug development to scientific conferences. Big Pharma dictates what is permitted and forbidden in the field of science and medicine, and today humanity is paying the price. The situation is so extreme that 45% of the FDA budget is covered by Big Pharma companies themselves. The same regulatory body, the enlightened ones responsible for medicines and food, without whose approval no medicine goes on the market, depends on the application fees that those companies pay when they submit drugs for approval. Thus the FDA depends, to an unhealthy degree, on money from the companies it supervises. Furthermore, it is clear to all that Pfizer has no interest in selling its vaccines to poor countries, when it can continue to peddle its wares at the highest possible price.

In a rare historical situation of global pandemic that fatally harms world economies, causes political and social shocks, paralyzes the education system, deepens social rifts and causes the deaths of millions around the world, the solution is to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to reach a 70% vaccination level. The “national” immunization strategy has failed, and there is no escape from switching to a “global” immunization strategy to put an end to the pandemic. The absurdity is that as the coronavirus continues to spread, Pfizer’s profits swell. Anyone with eyes in his head understands that the way to put an end to this absurdity is to temporarily expropriate from Pfizer the intellectual property rights over this vaccine, and allow drug factories around the world to produce it in bulk and cheaply.

The way to temporarily abolish intellectual property rights over the vaccine is through the World Trade Organization, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with the intellectual property rights agreement signed by its member states. Although President Biden agreed to support a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights in May this year and thus gave great hope to the world, his voice has since been silenced, he has adopted the booster strategy, and health anarchy is deepening. Both Biden and Dr. Fauci have embraced Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price, the head of public health services in Israel. She was honored to appear before the FDA to promote the booster shot, and along the way the interests of Pfizer.

Israel and its public health system have become a model for two opposites: on the one hand a model for the effectiveness of a public health system and for a booster shot that undoubtedly prevents serious illness, and on the other a model for contagion, mutation, and deaths despite high vaccine levels. Had Dr. Elrai-Price and her friends been faithful to the scientific truth and free from external considerations, they would have used the Israeli experience to tell the whole world: “Beware of relying on the vaccine alone, the booster is not the ultimate solution, you cannot live alongside the coronavirus, and the only way to eradicate the pandemic is by vaccinating the entire world.”

When it was proven that the experiment was successful but the patient died, instead of becoming a Pfizer laboratory the Israeli government and Israeli health system should take a bold step: Say thank you and good-bye to Albert Bourla, while using their prestige to embark on a global outreach campaign. They should act in all scientific forums and with Dr. Fauci and the Biden administration, to persuade them to work within the World Trade Organization for temporary waiver of intellectual property rights over coronavirus vaccines. This is for the health of the citizens of Israel, the citizens of the United States and citizens of the world. Israel, which has become the human laboratory that enriched Pfizer, can today use its vast experience to prove to the world that the national vaccine can be effective only if administered equally in all nations. The sanctity of private property and profit must not be allowed to prevail over the sanctity of human life.

About Yacov Ben Efrat