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Countries are urging pharmaceutical companies to share the know-how of vaccines

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Paris (AP) – In the industrial district on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s largest city, there is a factory with brilliantly new equipment imported from Germany, whose clean corridors are lined with hermetically sealed rooms. It operates at only a quarter of its capacity.

The Associated Press is one of three factories on the three continents whose owners say they could start producing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in the short term if they had the technical know-how. But that knowledge belongs to the big pharmaceutical companies that produce the first three vaccines that have been approved by countries, including Britain, the European Union, the United States, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. The factories are all still waiting for answers.

Across Africa, in Southeast Asia, governments and aid groups such as the World Health Organization (WHO) are urging pharmaceutical companies to share their patent information more broadly to address the yawning global epidemic that has already claimed nearly 2.5 million lives. Pharmaceutical companies that have taken taxpayers’ money from the United States or Europe to vaccinate at unprecedented speeds say they are negotiating contracts with manufacturers – exclusive licensing deals on trade because they have to protect their intellectual property – secure security.

Critics say this fragmented approach is too slow to stop the virus before it turns into even more deadly eggs. Last month, the WHO called on vaccine manufacturers to share their know-how to “dramatically increase global supply.”

“If that were possible, there would be dozens of companies on each continent overnight that could produce these vaccines,” said Abdul Muktadir, whose Incepta plant in Bangladesh is already developing vaccines against hepatitis, flu, meningitis, rabies, tetanus and measles. : ,

The supply of coronavirus vaccines worldwide is far from in demand, with limited supply available in rich countries. According to the WHO, so far almost 80% of vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries. More than 210 countries with a combined population of 2.5 billion did not receive a single blow.

The deal-by-deal approach means that some poorer countries end up paying more for the same vaccine than rich countries. South Africa, Mexico, Brazil և Uganda all pay different doses for AstraZeneca vaccine per dose more than EU governments, according to research and publicly available documents. AstraZeneca said in an email that the price of the vaccine will vary depending on factors such as production costs, where the filming takes place and how much countries order.

“What we’re seeing today is a sham, the most effective approach to survival, where those with the deepest pockets and the smartest elbows grab what they have, letting others die,” said Winnie Byanima, UNAIDS Executive Director.

In South Africa, home to the world’s most troubling version of COVID-19, the Biovac plant has said for weeks that it is in talks with an anonymous manufacturer that does not have a contract to approve it. In Denmark, the Scandinavian plant in Bavaria has the ability to save more than 200 million doses, but it is waiting for a word from a licensed coronavirus vaccine manufacturer.

Governments և Health professionals offer two possible solutions to vaccine shortages. One, with the support of the WHO, is a patent fund set up on a platform for the treatment of HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis for the voluntary exchange of technology, technology and intellectual property. But no company has offered to share its data or transfer the necessary technology.

The other, a proposal to suspend intellectual property rights during the epidemic, was blocked by the United States and Europe at the World Trade Organization, which lists vaccine companies as the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. That drive is supported by at least 119 countries, including the 164 WTO member states and the African Union, but vaccine manufacturers strongly oppose it.

Pharmaceutical companies say that instead of lifting IP restrictions, rich countries should simply get more vaccines to poorer countries through COVAX, a public-private WHO initiative designed to distribute vaccines fairly. The company with its partners last week transferred its first shares in very limited quantities.

But rich countries are not ready to give up what they have. Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used the term “global common good” to describe vaccines. By the end of the week, however, the European Union had imposed controls on vaccine exports, allowing countries to cease firing from their borders in some cases.

The long-term model in the pharmaceutical industry is that companies spend huge sums of money և research in exchange for the right to make a profit from their drugs և vaccines. At an industry forum last May, Pfizer CEO Albert Burlan called the idea of ​​sharing IP rights widely “nonsense” and even “dangerous.” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said that if intellectual property is not protected, “no one has an incentive to innovate.”

Thomas Quinn, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, called the idea of ​​removing patents “a very bad signal for the future”. You declare that if you have an epidemic, your licenses are worthless. ”

Vaccine exchange advocates argue that, unlike most drugs, taxpayers have paid billions to develop vaccines that are now “global public goods” to be used to maintain the greatest state of health in living memory.

“People are literally dying because we can not agree on intellectual property rights,” said Mustakim de Gama, a South African diplomat who has been deeply involved in WTO discussions.

Paul Fehlner, Axcella’s chief executive officer and advocate for the WHO Patent Board, says governments that have invested billions of dollars in developing vaccines and treatments should have demanded more from the companies they funded in the first place.

“The condition for taxpayers to take money is not to consider them as fraud,” he said.

In an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association on February 3, Dr. Anthony Fausi, a leading US epidemiologist, said that all options should be on the table, including increasing aid and improving production capacity in the developing world. : works with pharmaceutical companies to mitigate their licenses.

“Rich countries, including us, have a moral responsibility when you have such a global outbreak,” Fauci said. “We must vaccinate the whole world, not just our own country.”

It is difficult to know exactly how many vaccines could be made worldwide if the intellectual property restrictions were lifted, as the reserve productivity of the factories was not publicly distributed. But Suhahib Siddiki, the former director of chemistry at Moderna, said that thanks to the project նախագծ technical advice, the modern plant should be able to produce vaccines for a maximum of three to four months.

“I think the vaccine belongs to the public,” said Siddique, who is still active in the field. “A company that has experience in synthesizing molecules must be able to do so.”

Returning to Bangladesh, the Incepta plant tried two ways to find what it needed to make more vaccines, offering its production lines to Moderna and contacting a WHO partner. Moderna did not respond to numerous requests for comment on the Bangladesh plant, but its chief executive, Stephen Bankel, told European parliamentarians that the company’s engineers were fully committed to expanding production in Europe.

“Making more technology transfers now can actually put production and added products at risk for months,” he said. “We are very open to doing that in the future when our current sites are up and running.”

Muktadir said he had been in talks last May with CEPI or the Coalition for Epidemiology Preparations, a WHO partner in a global effort to buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccines fairly, but to no avail. CEPI spokesman Tom Mooney said talks with Incepta last year were not of interest, but that CEPI was still discussing “partnership options, including the possibility of using Incepta’s second-wave vaccine capabilities.”

Muktadir said that he fully appreciates the extraordinary scientific achievement involved in the development of vaccines this year, he wants the rest of the world to be able to participate in it, he is ready to pay a fair price.

“No one should give away their property in vain,” he said. “The vaccine can be made available to people with high-quality, effective vaccines.”

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This was reported by Cheng from Toronto. Report I am in Kiten, Ian M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, Al-Emrun Garjon in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg, South Africa contributed to this report.

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