It’s currently June 13, 2021 as I’m writing this. As an engineer, it is usually in my nature to be mostly non-political and to solely argument with facts and science. But the way we act as humanity in this tough Covid situation really makes me angry and I need to express my anger with this post. Spoiler alert: It’s going to be on the political side of things. Maybe that’s due to the fact that I’m getting older. But let’s not speculate here, shall we!?
From the perspective of a First World nation, the Covid pandemic seems to be well contained as we open up stores again and lockdowns are dropped, due to the falling number in Covid cases and available ICU hospital beds. In Germany, 50% of the population has been vaccinated once, while almost 26% of the population has been vaccinated twice (Source: RKI). To gain herd immunity, we’d have to reach 60-70% of the population being vaccinated twice. So that’s still a long road to go.
Let’s talk about the vaccines for a moment. In Europe, we’ve got four vaccines approved by the EMU (European Medical Agency). All of them are patented. At this point I’ve read some papers to understand the motives for a patent. The main motives that I could find to have an invention patented – big surprise – have to do with investment and especially return thereof. Now, generally that’s ok, we live in a capitalistic environment and I don’t generally judge all people who want to increase their capital. That’s the basic MO in capitalism, let’s face it.
Now, if we take a look at our fellow earthlings living in Third World nations, things aren’t looking as promising as they are here in Europe, for instance. People can’t produce their own vaccine, so they mostly rely on patented vaccine coming from First World states, which somebody has to pay for. Needless to say that people in Third World countries aren’t as wealthy as other countries in the world. So there’s that dilemma.
On the weekend around June 12, 2021, there a G7 summit took place in England. Heads of the Great Seven decided to donate one Billion doses of vaccine to Third World countries. At first sight that number seems very huge and generous. However, the number of people living in countries with an HDI (Human Development Index) lower than 0.5 is around 500 Million. Still seems generous, right? Let’s look at it the other way around. If we consider a First World country to have an HDI of 0.8 or higher, the population of those countries sums up to 1.5 Billion inhabitants (Source: WPR). Given a world population of 7.8 Billion, 6.3 Billion people are not living in a First World country. To me, personally, this is the number of people in potential need of vaccine supply. Which in turn makes the donation of one Billion by G7 simply ridiculous!
Shut up and listen!
The next question I asked myself is: “Is a vaccine donation really what Third World countries need?” and “If not, what is it that they need? Has anyone actually listened to them???”. This reminded me of a great video of a TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli about “Want to help someone, shut up and listen!“. If you haven’t seen this, watch it! It will change the way you approach people, trust me!
Now, if you listen to the inhabitants of Third World countries, they don’t need “generous” vaccine donations. They need to be able to produce their own vaccine! But they can only do that, if one of the patent holders gives them the recipe (I’m simplifying intentionally here).
The Corona virus is a problem every human being on this planet is equally facing right now. Don’t you think, that we all should have the same knowledge on how to fix the situation? Don’t you think it is worth spreading the information on how to produce a vaccine, so every nation can help themselves? In my opinion, it is, without any doubt.
So I am appealing to the Governments of all the “great” nations: forget the damn patents, listen to what people actually need during the Covid pandemic and help other people to help themselves! Giving away one Billion shots is not just ridiculous, it’s hypocritical in my eyes! It’s hypocritical, because the First World nations can politically state how well they’ve done in helping the Third World nations, when in fact they were just holding everyone else on a short leash. “Let’s send ’em one Billion shots, they’ll be fine”.
Shut up and listen!!!