The Beginning of the Vaccine Wars

For almost nine months now, the world has been in the ban of the Covid-19 crisis, with more than 55 million people infected and almost 1.4 million deaths. Immediately with the appearance of the virus in China, pharmaceutical companies have started efforts to develop either a cure for the disease or preferably a vaccine. While most vaccines available now for a wide variety of diseases have taken many years to develop, apparently if the urgency is big enough, and the possibilities to make a fortune are promising, time becomes much less of an issue. Both established Big Pharma companies, as well as newcomers, mostly from Biotech, have made big efforts to come up with an effective vaccine, using both conventional technologies (such as a weakened virus such as the flu vaccine) as well as novel approaches involving genetic manipulation.

And, while it is clear that the race is not yet run, this week two companies announced that their vaccine is more than 90% effective. With an, in most years, less than 50% effectiveness of the influenza (flu) vaccine, this appears to be an astounding success. Of course, these numbers still need to be verified and approved, but it looks like the world may be looking at a solution to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also interesting to note that both these companies (Pfizer and Moderna) are using a novel technology that was not yet applied to vaccine development. And while that simple fact leaves questions related to safety, in particular long-term safety, at this point it seems the benefits of a highly effective vaccine outweigh the risks.

It may be expected that in the coming weeks, other companies will come forward with their own (initial) results and the promise of a return to “normalcy” may yet come to pass.

But this is where the “Vaccine Wars” will begin. These wars will be fought over two very critical and important aspects of the road to normalcy. One aspect is which countries will get the vaccine, and the other is who should get the vaccine first once it reaches the lucky countries.

Once the testing and approval processes of the many vaccines out there will be completed, it may be assumed at least some of the many vaccines currently under development will receive approval sometime during 2021. The Pharma companies will use every means to convince or coerce countries to buy their product at their terms, both of cost as well as logistics (which in particular for the Pfizer vaccine is problematic, requiring minus seventy degrees to remain active), and all are currently busy arranging contracts with countries and local authorities to supply vaccines on their rules and without too much commitment from their side.

The U.S., the EU and also Israel have entered such contracts, but many other countries, less effluent, or less attentive, will lose out. And even those that did sign contracts, the actual delivery of the vaccines is far from certain, not the time frame and definitely not the quantity. With two American companies (Pfizer and Moderna) ahead in the race, but supported by enormous sums of money from the American government, the chances of anyone receiving substantial amounts of the vaccine before the U.S. are small indeed. Israel may be counting on the CEO of Pfizer finding his “Jewish Roots” or the fact that the Chief Medical Officer of Moderna, is an ex-Israeli, but in the end, money will decide and Israel will have to wait.

The big losers of course will be those countries wo did not have the wherewithal or the resources to enter into contractual arrangements with the Pharma companies and will be pushed to the end of the line.

The losers of the second vaccine war will be many of us.  This war will take place on a more local level, and will involve the “Pecking Order” of inoculation. Even, when vaccines are available, local authorities will have to make arrangements for the logistics involved, and more importantly, decisions will need to be made as to who will receive the vaccine first. Medical personnel, teachers maybe, elderly probably, sick people possibly, but then who? Apart from the logistics involved of inoculating everybody, which will result in months and months of delay before everybody will get the desired prick, if there are not enough vaccines available or immediately available, who decides who will receive the vaccine and who will have to wait?

The big loser will be the small man, without the right connections, without the money and without the ability to make demands.

Your health comes at a price.

 I hope you found this article interesting and I welcome any comments you may have.

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