COVID-19 Vaccinations. A Call for Cooperation

Pharmaceutical Production Plants

Arguing In Europe

This week here in Europe we have seen an argument develop within and beyond the EU about COVID-19 vaccines. The EU has accused AstraZeneca of not fulfilling its contractual obligations to the block, as it has not (or cannot) provide the block with the amount of vaccines it promised.

The British press have started to suggest the EU are going to stop the vaccines getting to the UK, with part of the problem being that according to the International Federation of Vaccine Manufacturers, about 76% of major vaccination manufacturing capability lies in Europe, most within the EU.

Now the EU is threatening to block exports from factories in the block until they have their vaccines that they say they have been promised.

This will not only affect the British, who I think are the target for this proposal, but I can only presume many parts of the world. And vaccine availability was anyway (to say the least) unevenly distributed.

To what degree can this be seen as a technological problem? Or an open science problem? From the technological perspective I think the answer is plain to see. The path chosen to get out of the COVID pandemic is what we in my world call a technological fix, in this case a vaccine that has been developed using cutting edge technology in a very short time. As a previous post explained, these vaccines use synthetic biology techniques, read more here.

A Ray of Hope

Each company can only produce so much of the final product. But in another breakthrough, this week a competitor has decided to start producing AstraZeneca’s vaccines for them in one of their facilities. A breakthrough! Cooperation!

If Sanofi (the French manufacturer that is going to join in) then why can’t others? And not only in Europe obviously. Across the globe.

The European concentration of production and wealth leads to massive discrepancy in availability across the world. According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, data shows that rich nations representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have bought up 53 percent of all the most promising COVID-19 vaccines so far.

The alliance says that nearly 70 countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken by governments and the pharmaceutical industry to make sure enough doses are produced.

So it appears to me that this kind of technological fix benefits some people more than others. But I ask myself if this has to be the case. Couldn’t other facilities be pressed into action across the globe to use spare capacity to produce more vaccines? Couldn’t this be done in the name of humanity rather than profit?

Cooperation in a time of crisis?

One thought on “COVID-19 Vaccinations. A Call for Cooperation

  1. Christopher Roberts

    I think healthy competition is fantastic, it brings low price, quality, choice an innovation. It’s the basis for many successful Western capitalist societies. Competition needs a little guidance from a democratically elected government to steer it in the right direction sometimes; to ensure the margins of society are looked after and no firm becomes too big.

    I’m also a huge advocate of cooperation. Working Together Everyone Achieves More – TEAMwork. We are more than the sum of our collective parts.

    Competition among the pharmaceutical industry has lead to us having dozens of potential vaccinations. Now we’ve got to this stage, like you say, it’s the perfect opportunity for collaboration!

    I believe Sanofi were working on vaccine themselves, and whilst sadly didn’t work out, it makes total sense now for them to use their infrastructure to support the production of other vaccines.

    Vaccine nationalism is a worry. No one human life is any more or less valuable than any other, so the situation between the EU and AstraZeneca was concerning. It looks like things have resolved themselves now though – I really hope we can all work together to achieve a faster global vaccine roll out 😊

    Because it wasn’t clear which would deliver, the UK funded many different vaccination programmes, ordering early on. As a result, it has far more doses than citizens and it’s planning on supporting vaccination programmes in less developer countries with the extras. I really hope this works out and that other countries will be able to do the same too.

    Hopefully we’ll continue to see a ramp up in production everywhere, even as some countries near full vaccination, so we can all cooperate to help the whole world beat COVID-19.

    It feels really good that things are looking on the up after a year of COVID 😊

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