System error. It is true that aid to India has come from several nations in response to the worsening pandemic crisis there. The fact remains that the damage is extensive and continued aid is vital. We’ve seen the news outlets cover the issue like CTV News, ventilators and life-saving drugs were sent to India by the Canadian government in early May 2021, along with $10 million exchanged between the Canadian Red Cross and Indian Red Cross.
Other countries have followed suit, but to have real impact, we need to re-think vaccine patents.
As I wrote in my previous article, companies around the world, including Canada, heavily rely on India for IT services. We need these Indian IT workers to help run our businesses. However, now that these same workers are the ones who need help, why are we just sitting on our hands and instead of implementing real change that could save tens of thousands of human lives?
How can medical aid be expanded? Vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna currently retain their United States patents for their vaccine formulae. However, a motion by the World Trade Organization (WTO), backed by 100 out of 164 WTO nations, supports the temporary mandated release of these patents. By doing so, all the world vaccine’s manufacturers can begin vastly increasing production for distribution to both virus-ravaged countries like India and to less developed countries. The main opponents to the WTO motion are US Republicans, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, which should come as no surprise since they have plenty of vaccine stock.
According to the New York Times, Pfizer took home $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of 2021 from vaccine production. The figure accounts for 25% of their total revenue. Why are these companies letting the world die simply for their need to make ever-expanding profits? This is a global catastrophe, which requires a global solution. Medical experts have repeatedly warned that if we do not quell this virus soon, more deadly variants will emerge. And how long will it be before one of these variants is resistanct to our current vaccines? What then?
While the patent debate runs through the bureaucratic pipeline like molasses, back in India the overall infection numbers may be plateauing but the carnage remains.
As reported by CTV News, the rural villages of India are seeing people die from fever and breathlessness before they can even get tested for the virus or even be seen by medical personnel. Imagine if that was you. You are struck with symptoms making it impossible to breathe and there is no one to help. That is the reality in rural India right now. Instead, we sit back in our comfy vehicles with air-conditioning and fancy navigation, secure in the knowledge that we can get a vaccine anytime. Well, guess who helped sell you that vehicle. Some breathless, fever-stricken, dying person in India.