What about the argument from the pharmaceutical companies, saying that waiving the patents won’t lead to doses anytime soon?
We are not suggesting that intellectual property alone is going to be useful, but in combination with tech transfer and with massive investments in manufacturing capability, we could go faster than we are now. Are we going to switch on like a light switch and have 10 billion new doses? No. But the time to build was yesterday, and the second-best time to build is now.
Another thing, I’m 58 years old, and this is my second pandemic. It’s almost a matter of certainty that we’re going to see another global pandemic. Global preparedness is not about the charity or intervention of a beneficent donor nation. It’s about creating capacity throughout Latin America and Asia and other places, so that next time we need to turn on the faucet for billions of doses of vaccines, we’re not waiting for Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca to scale up. And we’re not in a mad dash — like doing runs on toilet paper like we did last year. The question is, wouldn’t you rather be more prepared next time around than you were this time?
Are there lessons in your experience for today?
It’s déjà vu all over again.
In the old days of H.I.V., the idea was that antiretroviral therapy was something that people in the global north could have, but it was too complicated for it to be deployed in African health systems. The idea from some people was, you don’t do these sophisticated interventions in poor countries with rudimentary health systems. But the Thais, the Brazilians, the South Africans, basically people all around the world said, “No, we don’t deserve to die based on your notion of what our countries are capable of.”
Back then, we were also told, “Don’t you dare support other countries making generic antiretroviral drugs or else you are going to destroy the goose that lays the golden egg. You’ll never see another AIDS drug again for the rest of your life.” It’s completely not true. The pharmaceutical industry has prospered and thrived, and used this as an excuse to basically push back against any sort of regulation or restraints for almost 60 years.
The next pandemic?
This week, a 41-year-old man in the China’s Jiangsu Province became the first known human to become infected with a strain of the bird flu known as H10N3.