Covid Journal, November 30, 2020
“Could You Patent the Sun?”
I heard this story last week about vaccines on CBC’s Day 6. It was an excellent interview and is worth listening to.
Jonah Salk is a human being that developed a vaccine for polio in the 1950s. His efforts to protect people over profits and patents paid off for so many billions of people over the last two generations.
Just in case you don’t know the history, Jonah Salk refused to patent his vaccine and instead made it available to all governments, all organizations around the world. Unfortunately, many folks erased that noble intention and found ways around his wishes, but at least polio was put under control.
His son Jonathan Salk has been trying to keep this cornerstone of modern ethical and moral direction for the pharmaceutical world intact, but seems to be meeting up with a lot of opposition.
I think it’s time we remind ourselves that the basic idea of vaccines is a secure, safe and prosperous society. Many would even suggest that they represent the very idea of what socialism should be all about. If you go that route, there’s absolutely no reason why private companies should be involved with the health of our communities.
Africa’s 54 countries have teamed up during the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue equitable access to any effective vaccine. An African Union communique in June said governments around the world should “remove all obstacles” to any vaccine’s swift and equitable distribution, including by making all intellectual property and technologies immediately available.
The communique specifically mentioned the Doha Declaration on public health by WTO members in 2001, which refers to the right to grant compulsory licenses — where a government can license the use of a patented invention without the consent of the patent-holder.
The African communique, read out after a continental conference on the quest for COVID-19 vaccines, states an urgent need for countries to “make full use of legal measures … to ensure monopolies do not stand in the way of access.” It points out the “barriers” intellectual property rules have posed in the past to affordable vaccines in developing countries.
In Canada, we used to have a public authority that oversaw the develop of vital community health assests … like vaccines. It was called Connaught Labs and was sold off by the Mulroney Conservatives as part of their program of privatization.
Too bad we don’t have that now. We’d be spending billions on top-notch development right here in Canada and we’d be able to take the high road with production of a Covid-19 vaccine and others like it and distribute it to those countries that have been shoved to the back of the line. Connaught could be the kind of Canadian-made solution that all of us could use right now. Or we pretend we’ve got public ownership, but just let American or international pharmaceutical companies continue with patent and trademark ownership:
Not only do we no longer have Connaught Labs, but Canada spends $1 billion a year funding basic medical research at Canadian universities, yet relies on the private marketplace to produce, control — and profit from — the resulting medical innovations.
For instance, the crucial work in developing a vaccine to treat Ebola was done by Canadian scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg — and financed by Canadian taxpayer money. But sole licensing rights to the vaccine were granted to a small U.S. company, which then sublicensed it to pharmaceutical giant Merck for $50 million.
With that in mind, we can always picked up where we left off and make sure we don’t elect Cons to the federal government again so they can pawn off public asssets for pennies on the dollar.
Stop Blaming the Young’uns
We’re passing off an economic trainwreck, an environmental nightmare, a social disaster and yet we’re still trying to also pass the buck when it comes to accountability and who is responsible for the ‘Second Wave’ of Covid cases (hint: LOTS of false positives, as indicated by the Portuguese Lisbon Court of Appeal).
Well, the youth aren’t responsible.
During the summer, we conducted a survey with more than 500 sexual and gender minority people in Canada. The results contradict depictions of young adults as being irresponsible: more than 90 per cent of respondents under 30 years old reported practising physical distancing and wearing a mask — findings that align with data from other settings, including Switzerland and the United States.
In the U.S., recent qualitative findings have described how young adults experience a deep sense of responsibility to protect those at risk for severe COVID-19 complications in their family circles and in the broader community (for example, people at the grocery shop).
And the blame game is resulting in a heavy loss felt around the world with a younger generation that feels like it’s under constant attack. Example: In Japan, suicides now outrank Covid deaths on a daily basis.