Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Open-Source


Well, this can't be good:

Most of Africa and parts of South America and Asia are not expected to achieve widespread vaccination coverage until 2023.

However, Pfizer has a solution.  Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Global Supply for the pharaceutical giant says (beginning at :43 of the video below)

If you look at how current demand and current pricing is being driven by what I'll call normal market conditions, normal market forces, it's really been driven by kind of the pandemic state that we've been in and the needs of government to really secure doses from the various suppliers so what we believe is as we move from a pandemic state, from a pandemic situation, to an endemic situation, normal market forces, normal market conditions will start to kick in and factors like efficacy, booster ability, clinical utility, will you know basically become very important and we view that as quite frankly a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective, from a policy perspective, given a clinical, uh, profile of our vaccine.



Once we strip away the doubletalk "endemic" to a run-on sentence of 125 words, we have "we're going to cash in."  However, noting that "the pandemic is still likely to be a serious problem in much of the world this coming October," Dean Baker explains

this means that if we replicated the facilities of Pfizer, Moderna, and the other leading manufacturers, we would be able to have additional supplies in a time frame where it would still be enormously helpful, and the October target assumes no learning that speeds up the process.

On this point, Pfizer recently announced that it had discovered changes in its production process that could nearly double its production rate. This is of course great news, but it means that the authoritative voices who assured us that there was no way to accelerate the production process, were not exactly right.

Pfizer’s discovery of production efficiencies also raised the obvious question as to whether Pfizer’s engineers are the only people in the world with the ability to uncover ways to speed the production of vaccines. In other words, if knowledge of Pfizer’s production process was freely shared with engineers throughout the world, do we really believe that no one else could come up with further improvements?

This gets us back to the value of going full open-source to combat the spread of new vaccine-resistant variants. At this point, we have more than a half dozen vaccines that are being widely distributed in countries around the world. In addition to the U.S. and European vaccines, there are at least two from China (the country has apparently just approved a third), a vaccine from India, and a vaccine from Russia. These vaccines have varying effectiveness rates and undoubtedly will also have different rates against different strains.

As it stands, there are serious complaints about the lack of transparency on results from the non-U.S.-European manufacturers, however, even the U.S. and European manufacturers have not been fully open with their trial results. It would be ideal if all these companies fully disclosed their clinical trial results so that researchers throughout the world could see which groups of people each vaccine was most effective with, and how it fared in protecting against the various strains.

Getting full disclosure is something that would have to be negotiated, but this is why god created governments. In principle, this should be a doable lift. After all, it is to everyone’s benefit to have the pandemic controlled as quickly as possible. And the specific task involved does not require great effort. The manufacturers of the vaccines have the data, we just need to have them post it on the web.

If we had full information on the effectiveness of each vaccine and we freely allowed manufacturers everywhere to produce any vaccine, without regard to intellectual property claims, we would be best situated to contain the pandemic and quickly respond to the development of new strains. Of course, this will raise questions about whether our current system of patent monopoly financing is the best way to support the development of new drugs and vaccines, but that seems a risk worth taking. 

The Washington Post editorial to which the tweet above links recognizes "the drug companies could, without sacrificing their business models, share know-how in manufacturing with producers in less developed countries." Could, but won't- unless as Baker suggests, it is negotiated.   This should be considered a major test for the Biden Administration, in which it can demonstrate a recognition of the value of government, with wisdom and leadership, to confront a very powerful industry.

 


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