Op-Ed in The Nation Calls for a People’s Vaccine

A new piece in The Nation by Ady Barkan and Zain Rizvi calls for a vaccine that “belongs to the people,” discussing the dangers of patent monopolies and the need for publicly funded medicines to be fairly priced. They write:

Like Salk, Bancel has benefited greatly from public dollars. His corporation received millions in funding as early as 2013 to help develop its new way of making vaccines. Federal scientists helped design the new Covid-19 vaccine and are now running the critical human tests. The government also just gave $483 million to scale manufacturing. The public is paying at every stage for this potential vaccine—and so many others. All five candidates Trump is expected to short-list have benefited from public funding.

Fortunately, we do not have to wait for Big Pharma to find it in its heart to be benevolent. We can force executives to be like Salk. The US government has the authority, under existing law, to break patent monopolies. In exchange for a modest royalty, the government can and should allow any manufacturer to produce promising Covid-19 medicines. The government threatened to use the approach to lower prices for a critical antibiotic when letters containing anthrax spores were sent to media outlets and the offices of Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy in 2001. The government should also require companies to share know-how, and ramp up public production for promising medicines. All contracts should safeguard affordability and availability for all.

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