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Editorial Last Updated: Jun 10, 2020 - 2:11:13 PM


The "Vaccine Alliance"
By German Foreign Policy 7/6/20
Jun 9, 2020 - 1:39:04 PM

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Germany is planning an "alliance" with other European countries to produce a Covid-19 vaccine - in rivalry with the USA.

 

The German government is using the Covid-19 pandemic to expand its strategic disengagement from the USA. According to reports, Germany is leading efforts to form a European "Vaccine Alliance," together with France, Italy and the Netherlands to prevent the EU from losing out to the United States and China "in the geopolitical race for a Coronavirus vaccine." The participating states are already negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, which would receive government research funds and purchase guarantees and in return organize the desired Covid-19 vaccine's distribution according to their own concepts. It has previously been made known that the Trump-Administration, in return for billions in subsidies, had secured national priority access to the majority portion of a future vaccine. Now, the EU is planning billions in subsidies for pharmaceutical companies, in spite of the fact that they are already known for their huge profits.

The "Flag of Multilateralism"

The four countries, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, joining together in the new "Vaccine Alliance" account for more 200 million citizens and can therefore build up sufficient “market power” in order to survive in the global struggle for vaccines.[1] In a letter to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the health ministers of the four participating states wrote that access to vaccines is “one of the most urgent issues that the European Union has to address at present.” The newly formed "core group of member states" has the best chance of asserting itself against Beijing and Washington in "negotiations with key players in the pharmaceutical industry.” According to the report, the German government does not want the Alliance to be officially perceived as an "attack on Trump." However, given a realistic assessment of the situation, Berlin has "no other choice" but to play the European card in rivalry with the USA. CDU politicians with close contact to the pharmaceutical industry are being quoted saying that it is "right and necessary" that Berlin and its partners are holding up the "flag of multilateralism."

Subsidize "Until Market Maturity"

The Alliance was essentially German Health Minister Jens Spahn's initiative, the report indicates. Even before it was publicly announced, the European "Vaccine Alliance" had already "made contact with several pharmaceutical companies" including Britain's AstraZeneca company, which is allegedly developing a particularly promising Covid-19 vaccine. For the background: For decades the pharmaceutical industry has neglected the development of new vaccines because that does not generate significant profits. Following the Covid-19 pandemic's outbreak, several countries and private foundations, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates-Foundation,[2] have been mobilizing billions in subventions to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible. The states and economic blocks are providing billions in subsidies to be, in return, the first to obtain the vaccine. In early May, a first draft of the core EU members' joint action mentioned five to ten promising pharmaceutical industrial projects, European taxpayers should subsidize "until market maturity." The European "Vaccine Alliance" would like to secure a "fair and transparent process" that will allow a "sufficient supply for the EU and beyond," according to the report. The awareness has gained ground in Europe that one can only prevail in common in the "struggle for vaccines" and their "fair distribution." The European Vaccine Alliance is open to members beyond the EU and talks have already taken place with Great Britain, Norway, Singapore and Japan.

Vaccine Poker

However, no such contacts seem to be taking place with China, even though, on the occasion of the last WHO annual conference, the Chinese government had declared that it would make the vaccine a "public good" and "globally accessible." The German government views theses promises "with suspicion," according to the report referring to the claim that Chinese authorities had tried "to initially cover up" the epidemic's outbreak "in the mega city Wuhan." However, the United States is the European's major rival in the billion-dollar vaccine poker, in which governments are betting billions on those companies, they consider to be the quickest to supply the desired vaccine, the report continues. Trump has compared the vaccine's development with that of the "nuclear bomb" in WW II and is seeking to start a vaccine campaign in the United States before the presidential elections. He is not counting on "international cooperation but on obtaining first access." Similar to the European Vaccine Alliance, Washington is investing billions in pharmaceutical companies, which, if they are successful, are to supply the USA first. This could be the case with the AstraZeneca Company, in which the Europeans also show great interest. The Trump administration has given the company €1.2 billion for its research - in return for the promise of 300 million doses of vaccine.

Billions for the Corporations

According to news agency reports, the EU member countries intend to fall back on an "emergency fund" worth around €2.4 billion, to speed up negotiations on supplies of preferred vaccines with pharmaceutical enterprises, which have, themselves, been dragging their feet in the development of vaccines for decades.[3] The money should simultaneously serve to expand European vaccine production capacity and offer the pharmaceutical corporations, which are among the most profitable in the world, a sort of "liability insurance," where tax payers will be covering all risks involved in the development of vaccines. European diplomats have been quoted saying, the EU is prepared to take "financial risks" and, if necessary, to lose money, since many vaccines, in the course of development, will "probably be unsuccessful," otherwise there will be "no early access" to the serum. Previously, at the beginning of May, the EU convened a global conference of donors with dozens of countries and organizations, where "startup funding" of around €7.4 billion for vaccine research was promised.[4] The EU Commission promised a billion euros, at the time, the German government earmarked around €525 million. Others announced large subventions, Canada, €780 million, Great Britain, €442 million, Italy, €140 million, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation €100 million. The funds will be also used to subvention vaccine research (€4 billion), treating Covid-19 (€2 billion), and for clinical testing (€1.5 billion). The USA and Russia had not participated at the conference, which had been arranged in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO). The US administration has since announced it will leave the WHO.

"Unprecedented"

Washington on the other hand, is pressing ahead with its own vaccination program with the White House primarily focusing on expanding production capacities.[5] BARDA, the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is closely cooperating with pharmaceutical companies to conclude contracts on supplying billions of vaccine doses. US companies, whose vaccines would be approved in a fast-track process, would have had to agree to clauses giving the US government the sole authority in deciding on the distribution of the finished product, an "unprecedented condition." Washington's monopolization of production capacities has led many pharmaceutical companies to favorize cooperation with Washington. The Sanofi pharmaceutical company's announcement that it would first supply the USA with a "large portion of a possible vaccine" was a wake-up call for the EU. In mid-May the head of the Paris-based company declared it would "prioritize" supplying the product to the United States.[6] That deal may have been instrumental for forging the European Vaccine Alliance.

[1] Bert Fröndhoff, Gregor Waschinski: Kampf um Corona-Impfstoff: Deutschland schmiedet Anti-Trump-Allianz. handelsblatt.de 04.06.2020.

[2] See also Philanthropie als Geschäft.

[3] EU will Milliardenfonds für Kauf von Corona-Impfstoffen nutzen. reuters.de 04.06.2020.

[4] 7,4 Milliarden Euro für den Impfstoff. tagesschau.de 04.05.2020.

[5] Arthur Landwehr: Warum die USA beim Impfstoff voraus sind. tagesschau.de 15.05.2020.

[6] Leo Klimm: Pharma-Boss Paul Hudson will zuerst die USA beliefern. sueddeutsche.de 14.05.2020.


Source:Ocnus.net 2020

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