First 100: Biden finally agrees pandemics are global


It is April 26, 2021 and welcome to First 100. You can sign up to receive First 100 to your email address by clicking here.


More than a million Indians have contracted coronavirus in the past three days. Eighty-two hundred and three died. These are only official cases and almost certainly an undercoverage; crematoria operate so regularly in some towns that the ovens are melting. The official figures, taking into account the population models, are right now peaking above where is the United States today. However, it is likely that the cases are concentrated in urban centers, it is more likely that this represents a fraction of those affected, and the health system accessible to all Indians is in worse shape than ours.

The outbreak follows a mass rally of hundreds of thousands for Maha Kumbh, a Hindu religious festival and other big events. However India got there and yet Prime Narendra Modi could be responsible, in a pandemic and a connected world, what happens on continents will likely end up on our shores, in the form of mutations and variants that may not be covered by the current series of vaccines. It is therefore imperative to vaccinate the whole world, and we will not be safe from a crisis until it happens.

However, the United States had put a ban on the export of raw materials needed to create some of the vaccines. The country sits on 30 million doses of AstraZeneca (although they were made in this extremely troubled Baltimore factory) that they are unlikely to use. And the Indian health system is in desperate need of basic supplies, such as oxygen.

The first time the State Department was asked about it on Friday, its spokesperson first said it was a question for the U.S. Trade Representative (not really), and then, when he said been in a hurry, noted that “the United States is first and foremost engaged in an ambitious. and an effective and, so far, successful effort to immunize the American people. So in India you don’t get anything until we have ours. He ended by turning the script over and saying that it was in the best interest of the world to see Americans get vaccinated. So isn’t the reverse true? And if you can help India get vaccinated without affecting the US program at all, wouldn’t you?

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It took 48 hours for the White House to recognize how bad it looked. In discussions between the national security advisers of the two countries on Sunday, the United States pledged to send to India “specific raw materials urgently needed for the Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine.” (Covishield is the brand name for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, by the way.) We also ship therapeutic drugs, test kits, ventilators, and PPE; “Look for options” for oxygen supply; and helping finance the Indian vaccine maker to “produce at least 1 billion doses … by the end of 2022”.

OK, this is a minimal start, even if you put the promises aside arrive too late. The end of 2022 is far away and a billion doses (two are needed for Covishield) will not cover half of India’s population. Covishield, again, is the same as AstraZeneca, and yet these fully formed doses of AstraZeneca are not being shipped.

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Longer term, and if we are talking about the end of 2022, we are talking about longer term, the United States has still not joined the world in recommending the elimination of intellectual property protections on related therapies and vaccines. to COVID, known as TRIPS waiver. (TRIPS stands for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, which is actually TRAIP, so I don’t know.) Pharmaceutical lobbyists (in association with lovers of intellectual property barriers Bill Gates) have been making the same argument for the past 10 months, that waiving intellectual property would do nothing of value because it takes too long to add manufacturing capacity. First, if the TRIPS waiver does nothing, why has an army of lobbyists been deployed to prevent it? Second, Pfizer’s partner BioNTech bought a German plant in Marburg that had no experience with mRNA and brought him to production in six months. The “it will take too long” talking point has wasted lives, and the best day to end it is today.

The wacky new talking point, unleashed in the Financial Times, is that renouncing intellectual property could allow CHINA AND RUSSIA to… cure cancer. Seriously, that’s the claim. I’m supposed to be such a nationalist that I don’t want to waste a cancer cure race to a foreign country. If that’s all they have, there really is no justification other than profit.

Here’s the part of it worth watching: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai brought the TRIPS waiver under review, meeting with stakeholders and making statements supporting the waiver at a meeting of the government. the WTO. This led to “a vaccine maker complaining to White House officials” about Tai.

There’s something hilarious about CEOs in the pharmaceutical industry calling mum and dad to the White House because Katherine Tai was mean and threatened their cash cow. But on closer inspection, it appears the pharmaceutical lobby believes the White House is running trade policy rather than the US trade representative. This is something that concerns us. The USTR recently appointed a senior deputy to manage the critical China portfolio who has no trade or China experience. It looked like a demotion for the USTR; note that the call in India was with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, not Tai. A White House bigfoot from a fairly progressive sales representative has implications that go far beyond the intellectual property of vaccines; it deserves to be watched.

And not Forget Health care

On Friday it emerged that Biden would announce its American Families Plan without any provision on a critical test for American families health care. This elicited a swift response, both the “expand medicare” movement led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and nearly 20 other Senate Democrats, and the movement “to expand the law on affordable care” led by a dozen first- and second-year Democrats in the House.

Sure enough, on the weekend it was floated that the plan now includes $ 200 billion to expand insurance exchange subsidies, so that no one has to pay more than 8.5% income for an insurance premium. This was adopted into the US bailout, but only for two years. A measure to lower the price of prescription drugs, however, appears to be still pending.

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Once again, the White House is showing itself politically malleable, despite taking sides in the “improving private health care versus improving public health care” debate. But much of it remains moot. Emperor-King Joe Manchin wants to limit the bill to “conventional infrastructure” and involve Republicans, and if it so chooses, we are moving towards a final package that is about one-seventh the size of the Jobs and Families plans. Making plans is good, but maybe it’s just pushing paper.

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