- Alma Hassoun
- BBC News Arabic – London
1 hour ago
Memories of what happened during the spread of HIV (and AIDS) are still present in the Algerian professor, Maryam Mourad, despite the passage of nearly thirty years.
At the time, the young woman, Maryam, was a resident doctor in a hospital in Paris. She participated in the treatment of many patients who had contracted the infection, and followed up the details of the discussions and problems that took place during that period when the disease spread in the United States of America and Europe.
One of the questions they faced after coming up with drugs and treatments for the disease: Should companies give up ownership rights to the drugs they developed or not?
At the time, South Africa led a battle against the giants of the Western pharmaceutical industry to wrest access to the expensive AIDS drugs they produce, to treat millions of its infected citizens. That legal battle ended in what was described at the time as a “crushing defeat” for the pharmaceutical giants.
Therefore, the researcher and director of the Immunology Laboratory at Mount Sinai Hospital in the United States is not surprised by the demands currently directed at the major companies developing the anti-Coronavirus vaccine to waive the vaccine ownership rights.
In a Zoom call with BBC Arabic News, Professor Maryam said: “It is horrific. I feel as if history is repeating itself. The same discussion is repeated. It took us a decade then to get treatments for AIDS. I think we have to learn from history.”
The researcher disagrees with similar current demands to waive vaccine ownership rights. “We have to accept the current reality: I’m an academic; I don’t work for profit. I believe in equal treatment for everyone. This idea is perfect. I realized the world doesn’t work that way.”
But it seems that human rights groups are working hard to influence how the world works, including Amnesty International, which issued a report accusing the six major vaccine developers of violating human rights, and demanded that they suspend intellectual property rights.
These companies are: Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, and the report did not include vaccines developed by Russian and Chinese companies due to the “lack of transparency in their operations,” according to Amnesty International.
What Amnesty is demanding is not new.
In May, the United States announced its support for the World Trade Organization’s move to temporarily lift the protection of patent rights for coronavirus vaccines.
The countries of India and South Africa had proposed this plan with the aim of increasing vaccine production around the world, but they faced strong opposition from the previous US administration of Donald Trump, Britain and the European Union – until President Joe Biden came, took a different path, and supported the proposal.
According to Amnesty International’s report released on September 22, vaccine developers “claim” respect for human rights but “all have failed – to varying degrees – to fulfill their responsibilities”.
Therefore, Amnesty said that companies “caused or contributed to human rights harm to billions of people” who did not receive the vaccine, and also caused harm to human rights due to their decisions “not to involve others in intellectual property and technology,” and contributed to “violations of the rights to life and health.” Because it “repeatedly sells most of its scarce stocks to rich countries, often with tangible profits.”
Her claim focused on requiring pharmaceutical companies to suspend intellectual property rights through either the issuance of open, non-exclusive global licenses, or participation in the C-TAP pool, in order to achieve a fair and rapid market launch of vaccines.
The C-TAP pool was an initiative launched by the World Health Organization, called the Technology Access Pool in Arabic.
Note that there are similar international initiatives, the most famous of which is Kovacs.
So, what the human rights organization wants from companies is to share their knowledge and technology, train qualified manufacturers who are committed to increasing the production of Covid-19 vaccines, and not try to exercise their influence with governments to obstruct taking measures aimed at facilitating the participation of others in intellectual property and technology, and not to place their interests economy before its responsibilities towards human rights.
In addition to asking these six companies to prioritize the provision of more vaccines in the less affluent regions and countries by participating in international initiatives.
But, is the main problem is property rights?
Some voices do not think so.
The International Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industry, for example, believes that the real problems are not related to the patent, but to the existence of tariff barriers, difficulties in distribution, and the lack of raw materials in some countries, as well as the storage of doses by rich countries instead of sharing them with developing countries.
Professor Maryam Murad also shares this view, and believes that a solution is possible by sharing the technology, skills and expertise of vaccine manufacturing – without compromising her ownership rights.
“People should know that these efforts were not simple. Do we want to tell these companies whenever we need them that they have to give up their property rights? This is not the way the world is currently going,” she says, stressing that she wants these companies to remain responsible and that remain accountable.
“Property rights are a dead end because companies may give up but very few countries will be able to manufacture the vaccine – that’s first.
And secondly, ceding property rights means that we will put all efforts on the shoulders of governments and we know how some of these governments work.”
The professor clearly expresses her great support for the vision of the famous businessman, Bill Gates, the head of Microsoft, who entered the world of public health and vaccines, as his name was associated with many conspiracies such as that he took advantage of the epidemic and planned to implant chips to control humans – and of course all these allegations were refuted.
In a New York Times podcast, “Can Bill Gates Vaccinate the World?” Published in March of this year, US investigative journalist Megan Twohy spoke of the role Gates played through his work to create an intermediary organization that serves as an essential link between pharmaceutical companies and developing countries.
The podcast also mentioned how three organizations were the pillars of the Kovacs initiative; It is (Gavi) the non-profit global vaccine organization that Gates helped found, along with another global non-profit organization called (CEPI), which the man also helped found, in addition to the World Health Organization of the United Nations.
Talking – of course – about the man’s relationship with the World Health Organization and the role of his institution is very complex and requires extensive research.
But the focus now appears to be on the task of Kovacs and other global initiatives to achieve the goal set in July to vaccinate 40 percent of the population of low- and middle-income countries.
Meanwhile, there are about 100 days left until this agreement is fulfilled – as Amnesty International reminds us.