Everyone’s being terrible and nationalist and really not supranational because there are lots of different vaccine programs going on. We should of course be supranational, give the job to the World Health Organisation and wait until the bureaucrats have sorted out the diversity issue on the choccie biccie committee and thus got around to actually doing something.
That is actually the argument being put forward here:
The WHO last week warned against “vaccine nationalism”, noting that unless countries cooperate, an actually successful vaccine could touch off a worldwide frenzy. Similar to the scramble for PPE gear and testing reagents when governments seized exports, and the US reportedly tried to intercept other nation’s shipments at global ports, demand for vaccine supplies could result in another pitched battle for limited resources – with the added complication that no one knows which project will succeed, so no one is even sure what they’re trying to source yet.
And, while some vaccine projects have promised to make the results as cheap and widely available as possible, others are frighteningly marketised.
This all being rampant idiocy of course.
If a vaccine really does mark the end of the crisis, it will be a particularly perverse tragedy if the very nations that have failed up until now manage to turn it into a zero-sum game in which the country with the most money buys the most vaccine – leaving everyone else shut out.
And that’s twattery.
So, what is the scarce resource here? The answer is not doses of vaccines. It’s the knowledge of how to make a vaccine that works. So, 100 – by one count – programs to develop a vaccine is just great. It means 100 teams of bright people all working to try and see how it is possible to make a vaccine. This is going to succeed better than the same number of people all working on the one program to make the one vaccine. For as should be obvious we don;t know how to make a vaccine therefore we cannot just proceed down the one path to the one vaccine. We must experiment that it.
Once we know how to make a vaccine then there is no shortage of that knowledge of how to make a vaccine. Any one of those 100 teams and many others could, if told how it was done, replicate that work and or knowledge.
Which is, of course, why we have intellectual property laws. Because there are some things which are very difficult to do for the first time and then trivially easy to copy once they have been done. Discover a drug, design a vaccine, being high up of the lists of those things that this is true of. That we have IP for drugs is simply confirmation that this is true.
Further, for anything important we also provide governments with the power to break IP and get on with it themselves.
Doing things through the WHO won’t increase the planet’s vaccine manufacturing capacity. Doing it through the WHO won’t (see comments) change the nature of a vaccine nor its replicability. It won’t even change the ability of any government and every to copy if they want to. It would though put the most crucial current and immediate health care problem in the charge of a ludicrously inefficient supranational bureaucracy.
Quite why this would be a good idea well, answers on a postcard to:
Stephen Buranyi is a writer specialising in science and the environment
He could use a justification for reducing the amount of research being done for he’s certainly not given one yet.