Hope for a vaccine grapples with the limits of solidarity.
UM – 05/2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) has
stated that the world must prepare for the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen to be a part of
our lives forever. WHO Executive Director and epidemiologist Michael Ryan has
stated that the only chance left for eradicating COVID-19 is to develop a
highly effective vaccine. Even though a vaccine does not yet exist, there is
already international wrangling over its distribution.
EU not in pole position
According to WHO, there are about 100
research projects around the world that are working on a vaccine. Ten of them
are promising and have progressed to a point where they can be tested on
humans. But who gets the vaccine first? Chinese companies are involved in five
promising vaccine projects, US companies in four. Companies from the European
Union (EU) are involved in three research projects. The EU is not in the lead.
At a pledging event in early May, €7.4
billion was raised to fund research into a vaccine against the coronavirus. The
USA did not take part in this event. This is considered a poor omen. One of the
biggest players involved in the search for a vaccine is French pharmaceutical
On 13 May, Sanofi announced that ‘production
on American soil will be mainly dedicated to the United States, and the rest of
our production capacity will be allocated to Europe, France and the rest of the
world’. Since this original comment was made, a different message has been
coming out of the company’s Parisian headquarters, but there are still doubts
and mistrust. Previously, Germany and the USA had clashed over the
Tübingen-based company CureVac, which is also working on a coronavirus vaccine.
A vaccine for everyone
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, German
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Gavi are among those demanding that a COVID-19 vaccine be made available
as a global
According to the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies
(vfa), some sections of the pharmaceutical industry have already expressed
their opposition to this. vfa President Hans Steutel told Editor
Network Germany (link in German) that pharmaceutical companies must remain
the owners of their innovations because they are the ones investing millions of
euros. However, the industry will offer a vaccine at affordable prices. State
investment aid is necessary for the expansion of vaccine production in order to
be able to produce the required quantities. The question of who will have
access to the vaccine first remains unanswered.
International cooperation instead of national self-interest
Europe must stay on its toes. Peter Liese, Health
Policy Spokesman for the EPP Group in the European Parliament, says on his website:
‘… the crucial thing is that we also have a plan for when American companies
are faster than the rest of the world and Trump then says “America first”. The
distribution of a vaccine or medicine must be based on medical criteria, and we
have to supply everyone around the world as quickly as possible. This requires
international cooperation, not concentration on a single country’.