Capitalism Is Broken. The Fix Begins With a Free Covid-19 Vaccine.

Skewed public-private relationships, like pharmaceutical companies getting millions from taxpayers then overcharging for drugs, are just one part of the problem.

(Note: I don't think that trade agreements like the TRIPS agreement would currently allow this to happen.)

(From New York Times, via ip-health



Capitalism Is Broken. The Fix Begins With a Free Covid-19 Vaccine.

By Mariana Mazzucato

Ms. Mazzucato is an economist.

Oct. 8, 2020

Crises wake us up to harsh truths. Just as the wildfires raging across the West Coast in September jolted our attention to the realities of climate change, the economic downfall and health disaster caused by Covid-19 are forcing us to reckon with longstanding problems in capitalism.

Even before the pandemic caused millions to lose their jobs, workers were struggling with the precariousness of work caused by the rise of the gig economy and the deterioration of their bargaining power. Decades of budget cuts have eroded public services. In many large businesses, the practice of rewarding shareholders through stock-buyback schemes — instead of investing in research and development and in wages and worker training — has stifled long-term economic growth. An era of deregulation has allowed businesses to pursue short-term returns, leading to disasters like the 2008 financial crisis.

Things must change. Governments can use the Covid-19 crisis to address flaws in our systems and structures. The race for a vaccine is a good place
to start.

The only way to end the pandemic is to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and make it available for free to every person in the world. To achieve this, the
public sector needs to shape the drug-innovation process: steering innovation, getting fair prices, preserving supplies, ensuring that patents
and competition work effectively and using collective intelligence for a positive impact on public health. This is the intent behind the World
Health Organization’s call for a patent pool.

Most countries, however, are not invested in this goal, nor are they investing in global health systems to get through the next wave of the
virus. While over 300 vaccine projects are underway, the nations leading those projects are competing instead of cooperating. The wealthiest countries are focused on crossing regulatory finish lines, not developing measures to make a vaccine equitably available or guiding the broader
health-innovation system to focus on public health.

Some countries are also failing to address access issues for their own citizens. The United States has no safeguards in place to ensure that Covid-19 treatments and vaccines will be affordable for all Americans, even though the research and development of those drugs is substantially funded
with taxpayers’ money. In June, the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences announced that it would charge privately insured patients $3,120 per
treatment course for remdesivir, a Covid-19 drug developed with a contribution of at least $70 million from taxpayers.

These mistakes are putting lives at risk while prolonging a global economic crisis.

On an international level, governments need to work collaboratively to set firm rules on intellectual property, pricing and manufacturing. They must reach a consensus on the objective of making a vaccine universally available and accessible, as this will affect how production of the vaccine is carried out and governed. Governments also need to write strong conditions into contracts to prevent pharmaceutical companies from charging outrageous prices for Covid-19 therapies and vaccines. This will ensure that the pricing reflects the public contribution to the drugs’ creation.

But the principles behind these changes must apply beyond a Covid-19 vaccine. This is not about punishing companies, but about building a
stakeholder approach — sharing both the risks and rewards of wealth and value creation and directing economic growth so all citizens benefit.


Now is the time to do things differently — not only because Covid-19 poses a major threat to our health and economy, but because greater challenges
lie ahead as our planet continues to heat up. Unless we use this crisis to change our ways, we’ll diminish our chances of overcoming the next one.

Mariana Mazzucato is a professor at University College London and the author of “The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global

Original URL:

Related content