When Cambridge University began work on its covid vaccine, it promised that the resulting work would be patent-free, with an active tech-transfer assistance program so that developing nations could manufacture their own supplies.

That promise was broken.


The Gates Foundation pushed the racist lie that poor people can't make safe vaccines - despite world-leading production facilities in the Global South - and convinced the university to sell exclusive rights to Astrazeneca.


Astrazeneca got the vaccine rights without having to make any promises not to gouge poor countries for access to the vaccine. Of course they didn't.



Gates's ideology is that markets channel greed to positive ends, a sentiment echoed by Boris Johnson:


It's a lethal doctrine. 85 of the world's poorest countries are unlikely to get widespread access to vaccines until 2023: that's two more years for the virus to mutate into deadlier variations and re-infect people whose vaccinations have worn off.



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Market-based health care is a dead letter. Big Pharma turns publicly funded research into profits by holding us to ransom. Pfizer is demanding that poor countries stake their sovereign assets to settle any claims from their products.


If you have any doubt, consider the counterexample posed by Cuba, a poor, isolated country that has been starved for 60 years under a US embargo (partially eased for a few years under Obama, now back in force).


Despite its dire straits, Cuba is a global leader in all forms of vaccine production. Of the 11 vaccines that all Cubans receive, eight are produced domestically. The country leads the world in vaccines for tropical diseases and has entirely eliminated six of them.


It's part of Cuba's incredible health system, which trains docs from all over the world, including many of America's best students - largely PoCs - who opt for a free education rather than abandoning medicine as a luxury good only available to the 1%.


Cuba has handled the covid crisis brilliantly, with only 408 deaths (0.59%, compared to the UK's 2.9%). It has sent 57 medical brigades abroad, treating 1.26m people in 40 countries.



Given all this, it's no surprise that Cuba is also a covid vaccine powerhouse. Two of the world's 23 covid vaccines in Phase III trials come from Cuba; three more are in earlier stage trials. They are the product of a nonprofit, state-owned biotech sector.

Rather than competing with one another and treating their research as trade secrets, Cuban biotech researchers collaborate.


They are able to build on made-in-Cuba vaccines like the "conjugate vaccine" Quimi-Hib that is effective against meningitis and pneumonia.

It's this collaboration that has pushed Cuban mortality from all infectious diseases below 1%. The Phase III trials for Cuba's covid vaccines - Soberana 2 and Abdala - are scheduled to complete in Jun.


Given the country's excellent, community-based healthcare system, the rollout will be fast and efficient, completing in Aug 2021, putting Cuba on track to be one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate its entire population.

Cuban vaccines represents a powerful antidote to the vaccine apartheid being practiced by the Big Pharma monopolists of the rich world. For more on this, check out the This Machine Kills episode:



One of China's leading vaccine production facilities, Yongzhou Joint Biotechnology Innovation Centre, was built during the crisis under Cuban supervision and is ramping production on Pan-Corona, which was designed to attack covid variants.

Cuban vaccines are in Phase III trials in Iran, and there are talks underway with the 55 countries in the African Union, as well as Mexico, Jamaica, Vietnam, Pakistan, and India.


As Helen Yaffe writes for Counterpunch, "Cuba is a leader in biotech because it has a socialist state with a centrally planned economy, that invested in science and puts human welfare before profit; with the absence of capitalism and greed that Boris Johnson celebrates."


ETA: In part 1/, I meant Oxford, not Cambridge (of course)

@pluralistic imo anything r&d generally fails under capitalist systems because sharing and collaboration are too useful to solve hard problems

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