Big Pharma’s vicious battle against universal covid vaccination
Last week, the Biden administration broke with decades of US policy when it supported a patent waiver on covid vaccines. It was the first time in generations that the US Trade Rep acted on behalf of the people, rather than corporate greed.
Taking steps to make vaccines universally and immediately available isn’t just the right thing to do — vaccine apartheid is slow-motion genocide — it’s also the smart thing to do. Billions of unvaccinated people present quadrillions of chances for the virus to mutate.
Don’t listen to the unscientific claims that viruses “tend to become less virulent” over time. Remember, the mechanism by which super-lethal strains go extinct is that they kill all their hosts (that’s us, folks).
Likewise, ignore the racist lie — peddled by morally bankrupt corporate shills like Howard Dean — that brown people in poor countries can’t make vaccines.
Making mRNA vaccines is miraculously efficient, requiring less than 1% of the capital and materials of conventional vaccine production and less than 10% of the time to retool for new vaccines:
The pharma industry knows this, but it’s willing to make a bet that it can outrun vaccine resistance, rolling the dice on the human race to further its shareholders’ fortunes. For months, they’ve been carpet-bombing DC with anti-waiver lobbyists.
When the Biden admin sided with human survival over profit, it sent shockwaves through corporate America. Even Bill Gates — who more-or-less singlehandedly killed every effort to make a universal, public domain vaccine — changed his tune.
But pharma isn’t done. They have redoubled their efforts to prevent the Global South from making its own vaccines, even if that means that the 2.5 billion poorest people on Earth won’t be vaccinated until 2023/4.
Writing in The Intercept, Lee Fang reports on leaked documents from pharma lobbyists and powerful lawmakers that show how influence-peddlers are going to war to defend the right of multinational corporations to risk our species in the name of higher returns to capital.
Take the memo that Jared Michaud of PHRMA circulated to colleagues on Wednesday, identifying Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) as the chief water-carriers for the industry’s agenda, describing a letter that uses anti-China rhetoric to oppose the waiver.
Michaud also suggests that Senator Tom Scott (R-SC) might be biddable and serve pharma’s interests in the Senate, “but this is not yet final.”
Michaud, meanwhile, laid out a set of talking points to circulate to lawmakers. These lean heavily on the idea that Chinese and Russian companies will gain unfair advantages over US firms and implies that China has tricked poor countries into fronting for its interests.
Another talking points memo, marked CONFIDENTIAL and identified in its PDF metadata as originating with PHRMA’s Meg Van Etten, makes a series of nonsensical arguments about vaccines depending on exclusive rights, conspiculously failing to mention billions in public subsidies.
Taken together, these internal PHRMA lobbying memos bear a striking resemblance to the letter GOP lawmakers sent to Biden. It’s a rare glimpse into the direct pipeline industry has into officialdom, whereby they get to serve as ghost-writers for our “public servants.”
The pharma industry spends $24m+/year lobbying Congress and is a leading source of campaign contributions. They have been on the wrong side of history since the AIDS epidemic, where they led the fight to punish Nelson Mandela for demanding access to anti-retroviral medicine.
The scariest thing about pharma’s influence isn’t how much money they spend, it’s about how kack-handed and infantile their action is.
I’ll never forget the smirk on the PHRMA rep’s face at WIPO when literature from public interest groups went missing and turned up hidden in the toilets.
Running around screaming “China! China! China!” is just…idiotic. I mean, some very smart people with doctorates in chemistry and related fields work for the pharmaceutical industry.
But clearly, when pharma sends people to DC, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending liars and cheats. They’re sending genocidal maniacs. And some, I assume, are good people.
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the Monster Slayer. His latest YA novel is Pirate Cinema. His latest graphic novel is In Real Life. His forthcoming books include The Shakedown (with Rebecca Giblin), a book about artistic labor market and excessive buyer power; Red Team Blues, a noir thriller about cryptocurrency, corruption and money-laundering; and The Lost Cause, a utopian post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias.