India surpasses 20 million Covid-19 cases as Biden remains silent on vaccine intellectual property waivers

Technicians monitor medical oxygen filling lines at a supply plant in Ahmedabad, India, May 3, 2021.

Technicians monitor medical oxygen filling lines at a supply plant in Ahmedabad, India, May 3, 2021.
Photo: Sam Panthaky / AFP (Getty Images)

India surpassed 20 million covid-19 cases on Tuesday, becoming the second country in the world after the United States to reach this grim milestone. And to make matters worse, experts agree fairly uniformly that this is a considerable undercoverage of the true crisis, which has killed at least 222,408 across the country since the start of the pandemic.

India reported 357 229 new cases on Tuesday alone, with 3,449 new deaths from the disease. Less than 2% of India’s adult population has been vaccinated against covid-19, with a country of 1.3 billion people facing a severe shortage of supplies.

Health officials in India have pleaded with wealthy countries to grant waivers for vaccine intellectual property protection, but so far they have been flatly denied. The World Trade Organization is holding talks on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, where less wealthy countries like India and South Africa are expected to once again seek intellectual property waivers that they are unlikely to get.

About 100 countries have applied to the WTO for IP waivers for vaccines to be granted, depending on Law 360, but rich countries like UK, Australia, Japan and EU continue to set up roadblocks.

President Biden has remained silent on the issue of vaccine intellectual property waivers, despite pre-election promises that it was the only right and honorable thing to do. And these claims are starting to sound genuinely hypocritical in the face of a pandemic that won’t go away around the world until billions more are vaccinated.

“Absolutely, positively,” Biden said in 2020 when asked to ensure that no patents would stand in the way of anyone in the world producing vaccines. “It’s the only human thing to do in the world.”

But it became apparent that Biden wants pharmaceutical companies to do the right thing on their own, with Biden’s chief trade negotiator, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, meeting privately with executives from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer in closed meetings. We don’t know what was said and the White House insists that no final decisions have been made, but time is running out and thousands of people are dying every day.

Despite the meetings with Big Pharma, Biden’s White House would be “Divided” on the matter and has many excuses internally for why they shouldn’t grant exemptions.

the New York Times reported earlier today:

Inside the White House, the president’s health advisers admit they are divided. Some say Mr. Biden has a moral imperative to act and that it is bad policy for the president to side with the pharmaceutical leaders. Others say that the disclosure to the general public of closely guarded but extremely complex trade secrets would do nothing to increase the global supply of vaccines.

But this argument – that it would not increase the global supply – does not hold water when Indian officials say it preventing them from producing vaccines faster.

India has postponed exams for medical students in the country in an effort to bring these people to the front lines of this crisis, and is making many other adjustments in an effort to save lives. It’s just what you’re doing in a global pandemic because we’ve seen people make sacrifices around the world over the past year or so.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi organized this crisis badly and is getting a lot of heat for it, but there is a lot things that are apparently out of the hands of the Indian government at this time. If the United States advocated limited intellectual property waivers so that anyone with the capabilities could make their own vaccines, it would save countless lives.

But Pfizer could make a little less profit in the short term, despite the fact that they would still earn a lot of money on these lots of reminders down the line. And we can’t let the companies a little less money in the long run, can we?

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