The scandal of the vaccine patents

We have not yet had time to enjoy the pleasures of the third jab, and are already informed that we must roll up our sleeves yet again for the fourth one. Our eyebrow can no longer be raised, it is stretched to the limit, as are our nerves. A fourth dose within one year? What kind of vaccine is this? Is this the amazing scientific invention that was supposed to save humanity from this terrible pandemic?

When the vaccine was first introduced, we were told that two doses would provide us with optimal protection against infection and disease. The Americans coined the term “fully vaccinated,” and President Biden clearly stated that if 70% of the population were vaccinated, we would reach herd immunity and thus eradicate the pandemic. In the US, Democrats were quick to get vaccinated while the Republicans, supporters of Donald Trump, did the opposite, and as a result the vaccination campaign there is faltering. Israel has declared that all those who have been vaccinated twice are actually unvaccinated, and demands a third dose as a condition for receiving a green pass.

The global expert, Dr. Fauci, who has already survived the COVID-19-denying Trump administration and continues to serve as chief medical adviser to the Biden administration, twisted and turned, explaining that the third dose is probably a “full dose”. Attention should be paid to the term “probably”, which corresponds to “allegedly” in the mouths of legal reporters. In short, nothing is certain, talk is supposedly scientific, but in the end everything remains a matter of speculation. The Americans are loyal to their determination that one who has received two doses is considered “fully vaccinated”, and they only recommend a “booster” without mandating it.

And while they are still explaining the effectiveness of the third dose, Israel comes out with bad news: the booster too is insufficient, and a fourth dose is required to cope with Omicron. This is hits below the belt. While the Americans are fighting Omicron with two doses, Israel has already run towards the fourth. The lights of science, the saints of medicine, stand naked, embarrassed, and without credibility in the face of the Omicron wave.

And what is happening in Israel? As noted, it rushes to the fourth dose after roundly failing with the third. From the country with the highest immunization rate after the first two doses, it has become one of the least vaccinated countries in the West. Why? Because from dose to dose the public loses faith in the vaccine and in the conflicted medical establishment, with a large proportion of doctors claiming the recommendation for a fourth vaccine is not scientifically based. This time, it seems, the medical establishment prefers the popular insight that “what does not kill you makes you stronger” over scientific insight, which is, it turns out, unclear.

In fact, the vaccine strategy is collapsing. As the West digs in and vaccinates itself, the variants become increasingly contagious and durable. To be precise, the problem is not with the vaccine itself, but with the egocentric way in which it is utilized. The basic principle in public health states that “the world is one epidemiological unit, and as long as the world is not vaccinated no one is immune.” Omicron is the convincing proof that the vaccination strategy has collapsed. Wealthy countries stocked up on vaccines and paid exorbitant prices to Pfizer, whose focus is not on humanity but on its shareholders. 80% of all vaccines were purchased by rich countries and only 5% reached poor ones, fertile ground for the development of new variants that penetrate all immune defenses.

Why does the medical establishment continue to market vaccines as a solution to a pandemic, and not demand that resources be directed in a balanced way to the poor and unvaccinated populations, who otherwise become a breeding ground for new and resistant variants? In the midst of the tsunami of text that pervades the Israeli and global media, why is this simple truth not stated? How can a clear and unequivocal voice not rise up to urge statesmen to vaccinate the world as the most effective – and perhaps the only – way to stop the virus that has resulted in millions of casualties in two years? The answer is painful and simple: the medical establishment is held captive by Big Pharma. Without them there are no studies, no international conferences, and most importantly, no salaries and countless benefits.

A few months ago, more than 50 Israeli doctors, including leading public health experts, signed a letter addressed to Prime Minister Bennett and Health Minister Horowitz. Doctors urged the government to work for a temporary waiver of intellectual property (patent) rights of COVID-19 vaccines. This is to enable those countries that can do so to mass-produce the vaccine, making it accessible to the whole world and blocking the development of new variants. The letter did not receive any attention from the recipients or the media.

It is very disappointing that the same doctors themselves, who signed the letter on the understanding that this is the correct and effective way to prevent the spread of variants, appear repeatedly in the media, praising the various boosters while being careful not to mention their true position on intellectual property. As time goes on, the efficiency of the boosters disappoints, and the variants continue to evolve. The medical establishment thus loses credibility.

The institution entrusted with intellectual property agreements is the World Trade Organization (WTO), in which fruitless discussions have been held for a year about the demand for Pfizer and Moderna to temporarily waive intellectual property relating to vaccines. Global pharmaceutical powers such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the United States and South Korea oppose India and South Africa’s initiative to allow the production and distribution of vaccines to any country possessing the capacity to do so. The economic interests of pharmaceutical companies outweigh the interest of the world in eradicating the pandemic.

The poor world continues to get sick and remains completely exposed to the virus, but the wealthy, satiated, selfish West will also pay the price in the end. From India came the Delta variant, from South Africa Omicron, and these are penetrating every border and spreading across London, Paris and New York, returning us to the pandemic’s early days. The billions of doses already given do not prevent the closures, the collapse of health systems and the death toll that has already crossed 800,000 in the US alone. The pandemic is costing not only lives, but also has a weighty political price: the chaos created by supply chain disruptions, millions of workers forced into unemployment, the rise in prices that accompanies the economic upheaval, spiking inflation – are leading to a loss of trust in heads of state like Boris Johnson and Joe Biden.

And what about Israel? The “government of change” is facing a test it did not expect. The airport closure is reminiscent of the Dutch boy using his finger to plug the hole in the dike that is about to erupt, while Omicron has long been spreading in Israel. Instead of being the first to adopt the fourth dose, the Israeli government must use all its scientific weight to persuade the world to agree on a temporary waiver of the vaccine patents, to protect the Israeli population and contribute to surviving the pandemic worldwide. It’s time to end the addiction to Pfizer and its chairman Albert Bourla, who continues to inflate his profits at the expense of Israeli society and with encouragement of Israel’s medical and political establishments. The medical community in Israel must look in the mirror and tell itself the truth: We have failed, we have not told the whole truth, we have ignored the weak of the world, and Omicron is their bitter revenge.

About Yacov Ben Efrat