Video/Transcript of Press Conference: Global Leaders Urge Merkel/Biden to Solve TRIPS Waiver Block

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much panelists and press for joining us and viewers across the world. This morning we are going to have a press conference in advance of tomorrow’s Merkel-Biden Summit in Washington DC, where the German blockage of the emergency waiver of WTO intellectual property rules must be resolved. If this summit is not to be a failure. After the United States came out in support of the waiver of WTO enforced intellectual property monopolies that are blocking the needed scale-up of production of COVID vaccines and treatments around the world needed to save lives and needed to stop the pandemic, many other of the few countries that were blocking Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, came on side and join the US. But Germany doubled down in opposition and has now pushed the European Union to block the TRIPS waiver initiative now supported by over 140 other countries, because the WTO operates by consensus, Germany has the ability through this EU WTO membership to do that. So today, tomorrow’s summit with President Biden, a leader who said it is essential to save lives to get the TRIPS waiver of having Angela Merkel at the White House is the moment to unlock this critical first step towards scaling up the production to ensure that people around the world who are now left unprotected and ravaged by a vicious third wave of COVID throughout Africa and Asia and Latin America are able to get the medicines that they need. As we are going to hear from today from a stellar group of health and economic experts and faith and congressional leaders. We simultaneously have colleagues on the streets in New York, hundreds of people at the German mission to the UN and going to Pfizer and one of our speakers, the chief health officer from the esteemed organization Partners in Health, Joy Mukherjee will be on the street shortly after leaving us as part of that. So that is part of activities going on nationwide that started last weekend. There are almost 20 protests at German consulates around the world the big one today in New York at the mission but over this next week and the weekend more of them cross country. As well as a banner left at the white house yesterday photos available on Getty, AP and Reuters. Plus on tomorrow morning before reporters and the officials go in for the summit at the White House at Lafayette Park is a die-in that will have activists representing with bodybags the number of people who have died since the TRIPS waiver hasn’t been enacted in October. So with no further ado, I’d like to start our amazing panel who are going to beseech Chancellor Merkel, who showed much compassion during the migration crisis to stop blocking this vital public health and justice initiative and for President Biden to exert global leadership when she visits the White House and make it so. It is my honor to introduce now Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. She is the Senior Chief Deputy Whip of the United States House of Representatives and she is the chairwoman of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives, a very senior leader in the US House of Representatives, and she recently led a dozen of her congressional colleagues on the letter to German ambassador Emily Haber, requesting for members of Congress to have a direct meeting with Chancellor Merkel when she is here in Washington for her summit. Please Congresswoman Schakowsky.

 

Rep. Schakowsky 

Thank you so much, Lori, and good morning to everyone. I want to thank the media that is here and all of the speakers of course. I will be honest with you, at the beginning of May, I did not envision being here today to talk about how the World Trade Organization has not done anything to approve the TRIPS waiver, as you know, the trade related aspect of intellectual property rights, with COVID-19 still raging in many parts of the world and increasing singly threatening variants emerging, we are way overdue for a temporary waiver two trips, this is a make or break moment for the WTO. Since last year 2020, over 100 foreign developing countries have been appealing time and time again to the WTO to allow for the widespread and localized manufacture and distribution of proven vaccines. But by temporarily lifting the incredible blockage of the monopoly power of Big Pharma, temporarily requiring them to share the recipes and know how, how to make sure that we can help the desperately needed people around the world who need the vaccines. So we are all at risk. Let’s face it, every one is at risk everywhere, as long as the virus is active anywhere. While parties dinner at the WTO repeating the same talking points back and forth to each other, Pfizer, for example, is seeking to profit even further from the human suffering. They are just asking right now, and announcing that they will seek FDA approval for a COVID booster. Last May, President Biden made the courageous decision to support the TRIPS waiver sending a powerful signal that the vaccine should be available beyond the United States and other rich countries. Well, when the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the President’s decision, I was so proud of our country and so many around the world war as well. She rightfully described this as part of an extraordinary response to the extraordinary threat posed by COVID-19. We saw this as evidence of America’s return to the global stage. And many thought that the European Unionwould concur with the President. But the instead it has continued to oppose to be an opposition to the waiver, which we understand is a position led by Germany. And that’s why, along with a diverse group of eight of my colleagues, we asked Chancellor Merkel we sent a letter to the ambassador asking for her to arrange a meeting with us to discuss the urgency of Germany ending its blockade against adoption of the waiver. Scaling up by huge amounts, the production of mRNA vaccine is necessary to save millions of lives and livelihoods. And thanks to the intellectual property barriers, it is the United States and German pharmaceutical companies that have the only approved COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. They’re the only ones that can produce them. And they hold the monopoly power to decide if this scaling up will occur. Merkel will, as you heard, of course, will be meeting with President Biden this week. And this would be the perfect opportunity for her to follow the lead and follow the President’s lead and support the waiver. That move could change the fate of 10s of millions of people. By joining President Biden in support of the waiver, Chancellor Merkel would lock in her legacy worldwide, and that of Germany as heroes protecting people worldwide from the worst health threat in 100 years. So we consider a TRIPS waiver to be an essential step. That is necessary in order to scale up COVID-19 vaccines and medical production. And finally, fully capable manufacturering companies that are around the world, I have been seeking the greenlight at the WTO to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines and could expand global supply. It is past time. We need shots in arms, and we need them now. And with that, I yield back. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much Congresswoman Schakowsky. And it is now my honor to introduce Dr. Joia Mukherjee. She is a medical doctor who is the Chief Medical Officer for Partners In Health. And she’s also a professor in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. And she is going to be hitting the streets with our colleagues in the protest in New York. And just again, reporters, you can get video of that activity, which is going to be big and noisy and unavoidable at the  Health GAP. Thank you very much Dr. Mukherjee.

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

Thank you so much, Lori, and it’s such an honor to go after Representative Schakowsky, who has been a great friend to global health and justice for many decades now. We’ve worked with her closely on many issues, also an honor to be here with my colleagues from South Africa from Oxfam and elsewhere. And of course, Professor Stiglitz, I want to say that we at Partners In Health and those of us on the frontlines of providing care in the global south are guided by this series of decisions. We are facing the worst existential crisis of the 21st century. And what we see is a lack of international cooperation. And we know it’s the very international cooperation that we will need to combat the other huge looming existential crisis of climate change. And what this is showing us is that we get a huge F on our report card of collaboration. And we beseech Chancellor Merkel, to stop blocking TRIPS, but also would say that there are two more key parts of what we are asking for. First is not to block the manufacture of vaccines, generically, the massive scale up that we need to vaccinate everyone on the planet, we need to figure out what it will take to vaccinate all people on the planet, and then figure out how many factories are needed and how much raw materials are needed. So to do that, we have to then share the know-how across the world so that more factories can be put up. And second, thirdly, we need funding. We need massive global funding to manufacture these vaccines at scale now, because not only are people dying, including frontline health workers at a pace, but the increasing poverty, hunger and the escalating destabilization of our global commerce and global ability to be human has really taken a huge, huge hit from this Coronavirus pandemic. So let me just give you a few snapshots from the field. In Haiti, where our team Partners In Health is operating a small ICU with just six ventilators. We are serving a population of three and a half million minimum. It may be the entire population of nearly 13 million people in Haiti relying on those six or maybe at most, a dozen ventilators. To give you an example, when Manhattan was in the throes of its COVID pandemic, there were nearly 3,000 ventilators in the borough of Manhattan. And we felt that that was too few. And Manhattan has about 8 million people fewer than the 13 million of Haiti. So is it acceptable that people will die. Is it acceptable that black people, that brown people, that people in the global south will die? And that we just accept that? Well, the answer I am sad to say, and particularly being promoted by Germany at this moment is that yes, that is acceptable. It’s acceptable, why? Because we want to protect the profits of a company. In this case, I believe a German company, Biontech, that we believe nationalism is more important than globalism. And yet, on the public health side, I’m a clinician, so I care about those each and every individual who is sick. But on the public health side as well, we can even have a national strategy because we see that variants are being produced at a pace in countries where people aren’t vaccinated. So for the moral and humanitarian need to protect people from dying we need this vaccine. And for our public health, and economic and global security, we need to vaccinate people. And the only reason not to do this at scale is to protect the profits of companies. That is not an acceptable thing in 2021. And that will not help us in this and our other huge existential crisis, we need to think of collaboration, I am very fortunate to have grown up in the movement for AIDS treatment access with my fine colleagues from Health GAP and Public Citizen and Act Up. And we demanded that the US government, the World Trade Organization, waive the trips agreements, so that anti retroviral therapy would be brought to scale. But we didn’t stop there. We said we also need money to buy those drugs. And today, when those activism started in the mid 90s, Tet, it took us 10 years to get the Global Fund and PEPFAR online. Today, 27 million people on the planet are being treated for HIV through those active efforts. But we don’t have 10 years. We don’t have the time. There is a fierce urgency now to do this yesterday. And we need an all hands on deck approach. We need a wartime approach that will be collaborative in nature. And that will assume that it is in all our best interest, moral, medical, public health, economic and security interest to do this now. And to protect the profits of some shareholders, to protect the profits of companies is just an absolute non starter in our opinion. So, you know, there are 150 countries and leaders of countries that have supported this TRIPS waiver. We are also calling for sharing of know how and funding and to move beyond nationalism and profiteering to assure that vaccines will happen. And meanwhile, my great colleague, a physician and an infectious disease doctor in Haiti, she is a Intensive Care Unit doctor, she’s the only one on our team of 5,000. She has trained a few other physicians to do this. But she is every day for the last 15 months on-call managing sick patients who are being ventilated with insufficient oxygen supplies, and she herself has not been vaccinated. This is a travesty. This is a travesty. And we are begging you, Chancellor Merkel to waive TRIPS and to be the leader we know you are in the G7 to think about the billions of dollars that are needed to scale up manufacturing around the world and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible. My colleagues are depending on you. And we are all depending on you. Thank you very much.

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

Joia, thank you so much. We just heard from two amazing strong women leaders beseeching another woman leader to do the thing that’s not just morally right and economically right, but is going to make the difference for the whole world getting out of this pandemic. And a person who has helped me understand as Joia adjusted with that very painful example of the doctor in the ICU in Haiti not vaccinated, the person who’s helped me understand how dire practically this is Father Charles, who is the head of the justice and ecology Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. He was featured in a video that went viral in an interview with Ady Barkin, the Be a Hero, founder and health activists explaining what father Charles Chilufya, formerly father Charles known belovedly across Africa, as Father Charlie, as a leader of faith, and also justice, what is actually going on, because we’re losing the story here with our privilege of vaccination of what it’s really like in most of the world, it’s not getting better, it’s getting so much worse. So Father Charlie, thank you so much for educating me. And please, may I ask you to speak now?

 

Father Charlie Chilufya 

Thank you very much, Laurie. And it’s a great honor to be among such a highly distinguished panel. And, yeah, thanks for the press who are here. This is very, very important that I’d like to speak to what will be happening tomorrow, because what we are talking about here is urgent and it’s something that can be changed. And there’s no need to delay, what can change and what can easily be changed. So tomorrow, July 15, is America’s moment for true global leadership. President Joe Biden’s White House Summit tomorrow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be an epic moral failure, unless it ends Germany’s blockage of a proposed emergency WTO waiver to facilitate production of more COVID-19 vaccines and treatments needed to save millions of lives, which we really need here. The United States of America, Europe, are returning to normal lives, thanks to broad access to COVID-19 vaccines. Here, only 0.3% of people in low-income countries in Africa have their first shot. Only seven out of 54 African countries are on track to immunize. Even at 10% of people by September, this health crisis, as we have heard from others, then, is clearly a global justice crisis, a failure of humanity. It is an acceptable if all of you watching us from the global north, we’re here to see what is happening, lives lost needlessly. Livelihoods falling apart. People going hungry on account of lock downs. You wouldn’t understand why anybody with any little bit of morality reasonability would block a waiver of monopoly powers that protect the profits of a few, while millions of people die. The painful part is that all these can change in a matter of days, or in a matter of seconds if leaders like Chancellor Merkel take the right decision for life and not for profits. We think that President Biden can change this. President Biden has the leverage to urge Angela Merkel to look toward those who are suffering here in Africa, in Latin America and in Asia, and join him in preventing unnecessary deaths. I would like to recall how Angela Merkel a couple of years ago out of compassion, responded to the Syrian refugee crisis. We want to go on her and to repeat, ask her to repeat such an act of humanity is the best thing she can do as she leaves office. America has provided leadership before and by supporting the COVID medicine waiver and leading other rich countries like Germany and the EU to join the US. America has already started showing leadership and we are grateful for that. We are grateful for the promise of half a billion doses that would be coming to poorer countries. We’re really grateful. That’s leadership. And blocking Germany’s blockage of it WTO TRIPS waiver is the most important thing that President Biden can achieve in this summit. In other words, we are saying Biden has already done a lot is doing a lot, but he can do a lot more. Lives are being lost needlessly. President Biden’s faith is a central part of his commitment to social justice. Our Catholic social teaching prioritizes over everything else, respect for life, and the dignity of the human person. And both of those are being confronted by the refusal to support the WTO waiver. So I would like to appeal to my fellow Catholic. I like to appeal to president of America, President Biden, to continue doing as he is doing, but even do more, as I have said, to get Germany to do what should be done now without delay, support a waiver so that more medicines may be produced, as we have heard, and may be available to everyone, to every country and to everywhere. This is Biden’s moment for true global leadership. Here it is now. It is coming tomorrow and we believe it shall be done. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Hallelujah. That is from your mouth to God’s ears, and importantly, to the ears of President Biden and Chancellor Merkel. Thank you so much Father Charlie. May I please now introduce Marian Lieser. She is the executive director of Oxfam Germany, and a member of the Executive Board of Oxfam International. She also was in Tanzania for some years for the German Society of international cooperation prior to her leadership role at Oxfam Germany. Please, Marian.

 

Marian Lieser 

Yeah, thanks a lot, Lori, and hi to everybody. And thanks for joining us today. We are gathering virtually today because we are at a very crucial inflection point during this pandemic. In fact, the world has split into two, a world where we are going back to our lives because of highly effective vaccines, and another world with the Coronavirus continues to have the upper hand spreading uncontrolled, killing many still every single day. While many people in rich countries like the US and Germany have kicked off their back-to-normal summer, many around the world of fretting about surviving the summer. We find ourselves at this inflection point because despite having multiple safe and effective vaccines to combat COVID-19 we lack the political will to increase the supply and facilitate their distribution to everyone everywhere. Chancellor Merkel made it very clear yesterday, in fact, in a press conference was the leading public health Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, vaccinating people saves lives, full stop. And everybody should have the opportunity to get vaccinated. This protects the individual, the family, friends and our whole society. And it also helps preventing further verients that may be even more dangerous. We must use the same rationale for the global response. Everyone, no matter where no matter how wealthy or poor, must be given the chance to get vaccinated and protected against the Coronavirus. We can only achieve this when every government around the globe has enough vaccines for their population. Know-how and technology must be shared so that more companies and more countries can produce the vaccines. The pandemic can only be defeated globally. It requires global effort and global solidarity. No one is safe until everyone is safe. Nearly half of all Americans and Germans have been fully vaccinated, yet only 12% of the global population has. And in Africa even only 1%. Rich countries including Germany have secured two thirds of the available vaccine doses for themselves, although they account for only 16% of the world’s population. Which is why it’s so appalling that my country, that Germany continues to be a major blocker of the sharing of vaccine intellectual property, which could help maximize production and save lives. Taxpayers in the US and Germany have helped fund this life saving science. Yet Chancellor Merkel is happy to see it treated as the private property of a handful of corporations that have already produced nine brand new vaccine billionaires. This is unacceptable. Chancellor Merkel has proven several times during her mandate that she puts a strong emphasis on protecting human rights and lives. As father Charlie also just pointed out, notably in 2015, when many refugees tried to escape war, and sought protection in Germany, Chancellor Merkel declared that helping those in need and protecting their human rights is a political imperative. At the end of her term in office, she has now the opportunity once again, to leave a strong legacy a legacy of solidarity of humanity and of human rights. Oxfam calls on Chancellor Merkel to immediately change course, and stand up for people’s lives over pharmaceutical profits. She must follow the lead of President Biden and President Macron, and more than 100 other nations in backing a waiver on intellectual property for the vaccines at the WTO. This would allow more pharmaceutical manufacturers, especially in the global south, to start producing the vaccines needed in their country. They have the skills, knowledge and capacities to do so, if only they’re no longer blocked by a wall of intellectual property rights. It’s time to tear down this wall now. Being a scientist herself. She must understand the pleads of scientists and public health officials worried that a mutation will render our vaccines ineffective. We won’t win against Coronavirus unless we increase access to vaccines for everyone everywhere as soon as possible. As she meets with President Biden in Washington, Chancellor Merkel must now decide will she go down in history as the guardian of monopolies and profits or as an advocate for the common good? I expect the latter from her Chancellor America. We need a people’s vaccine now. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Marian Thank you so very much. And I hope the Chancellor hears your words and acts accordingly. It is now my honor to introduce Professor Joseph Stiglitz. Professor Stiglitz is a Nobel laureate in economics at Columbia University professor. He has written numerous books that have educated the world about economics about globalization, and has been a staunch public health advocates making the economic case particularly starting a debate in Germany with a very thoughtful piece run as a full page in Die Zeit. And this morning, and extensive interview on national German Public Radio, Professor Stiglitz, please.

 

Joseph Stiglitz 

Well, thank you. And I’m very aware of the time so let me be as brief as I can. And I want to begin with what Marian said that no one is safe until everyone is safe. And it goes beyond health. The reason is very clear that as long as the disease is festering in some parts of the world, there are mutations, these mutations can be more infectious, more deadly, and vaccine resistant. So it is in our self interest, our self interest that this COVID-19 be put under control as rapidly as possible. But it’s also the case that there won’t be a global economic recovery until the disease is put under control everywhere in the world. And we have to remember the magnitude of the pandemic downturn is so large, that is to his health consequences, that as more and more people get pushed into poverty, more and more people will die. More and more people will not have access to other aspects of health that they need. In terms of the global economy, it is estimated that the loss of output from the delay in getting vaccines to everybody in the world is in the trillions of dollars numbers like $10 trillion, half of which will be in the advanced countries. So from the point of view of morality, that Father Charlie emphasize to the point of view of economics. This is a no brainer. Now, the question, I mean, I’m an academic, like Angela Merkel is a physicist, we understand the importance of intellectual property. But intellectual property is a social construction that is meant to advance the well being of our society. And when TRIPS was adopted, there were provisions that are called flexibilities and these were reinforced, as Dr. Mukherjee pointed out in the context of the HIV AIDS. There is no change in the basic intellectual property framework associated with the waiver. It is not taking away intellectual property rights, there already is a provision for compulsory licenses. Why is this so important? Because time is important. There’s an urgency here. You know, we can’t wait for the months and years that it would take to go country by country product by product, we need a waiver. So it’s not a change in the intellectual property framework. It’s an issue of transaction costs, as economists put it, of urgency of getting the access to these medicines out making available very, very quickly. Let me emphasize the drug companies do get compensated, even though most of the research has been paid for by the public. Now, one of the arguments that is put forward is it won’t make any difference, there isn’t the capacity, or some people say there’s no shortage. Both of those arguments are wrong. In terms of there being no shortage, even the drug companies recognize there’s a shortage. If you look at what Pfizer is talked about, they’re planning to sell their drug at $175 as soon as the pandemic is over in the United States. $175. Today, they’re selling them at $20. The cost of production is a fraction of that. You don’t sell things at $175 if there’s a global supply, you can only get away with that when there’s a shortage. So Pfizer has recognized that there is a shortage. There is ample capacity to produce these drugs, it will take time. It is not the only bottleneck. But most of the other bottlenecks are economic bottlenecks. We know how to produce glass vials if there were demand, they will be produced in short order. But the bottom line is that the market can’t solve is the intellectual property bottleneck. That’s where politics, that’s where Merkel’s and Germany’s actions are so important today. So this is the bottleneck that markets can’t solve. Finally, we are engaged in a battle over values. We’re talking here about the values of lives over monopoly profits. There’s a battle going on globally. Our values of human values democracy, there are many countries that don’t reckon recognize that. Some of those other countries are engaged in Diplo in vaccine diplomacy. They are engaged in actually even not only giving vaccines but transferring technology, we are losing that war for the battle of the hearts and minds of people because of our selfishness. So Angela Merkel understands that kind of war, she was the victim, she lived in East Germany, so she knows about that. This is something that should be really close to the hearts of everybody. President Biden has taken a leadership on this, but this is a global issue for those of us who believe in democracy and human rights. So there are so many compelling arguments from the morality to our self interest, our own health, to economic, and also this fundamental battle for the hearts and minds of people all over the world.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Professor Stiglitz. Some very important and powerful statements, and we will now invite the press to speak with our panelists to question and answer session. You may ask a question by writing it in the comments or that you just have a question you’d like to ask just identify yourself, raise your hand, put a note into the comments, and we will call on you for a question and answer session. While we’re waiting for that question, I’m going to ask a short question for Father Charlie, which is if you have the chance to be able to speak directly to Angela Merkel and tell her what you’re seeing as far as the spiraling third wave of infections that are happening across Africa, what would you say to her right now?

 

Father Charlie Chilufya 

Yeah, I would just appeal to her compassion. Like everyone has said. You know, I think I shared with you last week that there’s just so much sorrow here. We are seeing it firsthand. When this thing started. We were reading about statistics about a few people in hospital here and there. But it’s hitting all of us. It’s just so much sorrow around. It’s just uncomfortable to leave at the moment here. And to see so much sadness, so much misery, which can be avoided with a decision for a waiver. And as has been argued, there is no last year, the economic arguments here, the are political arguments, the are moral arguments. So why delay, what can be changed? Why let lives be lost when something like this can be changed in an instant?

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you, Father Charlie. Let me ask a question, please, for Marian, which is a question a lot of people in the United States are baffled by, what possibly could be the reason why Angela Merkel is taking this position? Her of all people just given her past history of caring and Germany’s much more international minded position often than certain other countries like where I’m sitting. And, and in addition, just practically, is something Professor Stiglitz has helped me understand, which is the point that he made, which is under many country’s national laws, the companies even if there were a waiver, would still be getting paid license fees. It’s just a question of whether they have monopoly control over how much can be made, they’re still going to get paid. So given that what possibly it’s not even, you know, it’s not even that Biotech, what was money?

 

Marian Lieser 

Thanks, Lori. I also think it’s pretty out of character. And I would have expected her to be actually spearheading the movement, which is now spearheaded by Mr. Macron and, Mr. Biden. And actually, when we look what the German population thinks, very recent, actually, yesterday, a survey came out. And that survey, results in a 70% of Germans in support to suspend drug companies intellectual property rights in order to rapidly scale up vaccine supplies and save lives. And this is her also election basis. So I have no clue what advisors she has or what is going on in her mind right now. So I hope that she understands also the public of opinion and support for the waiver. Thank you, Lori.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much.

 

Joseph Stiglitz 

Can I can I add one more point, which is that even Biogen economic interest is not clear, because Biogen has sold the rights of its production, according to a report for most of the world to Pfizer. So most of the world, we’re talking about where there would be more production. The profits are going to go not to a German company, but to an American company. So it’s not even clear she understands Germany’s narrow profit making pharmaceutical economic interest.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much, Joe. And biontech is given all the rights just to reaffirm what Professor Stiglitz just said, for production outside of Germany and Turkey, to Pfizer, except for China to a Chinese firm. So literally, the amount of money available is extremely limited. And we have several press questions that have now come in and one of them I think, Dr. Mukherjee is perfect for you. But everyone should answer, which is for anyone who can answer this is from Washington Trade Daily. If the waiver is approved, roughly how long would it take to step out step up vaccine production in developing countries? Basically how soon could it make a difference? Please? Yeah,

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

I’ll take that one, but I would be happy to hear from others. I mean, we have done some of these analyses with the government of Rwanda. For example. And think that we could probably get things going within six months. That’s very ambitious. But as far as I can see that there is a lot of ambition in the global south to do this. And again, it would be great to not only think of the TRIPS waiver, but all of the steps needed sharing know-how and the money. But I think, again, we need a massive commitment to do this.

 

Father Charlie Chilufya 

And just to add that, other than one that has been mentioned, there are places like South Africa that already might manufacture vaccines. In fact, South Africa has been doing it on behalf of Johnson&Johnson except more than 90% of what they make, because of these opaque contracts, more than 90% of what they make goes to the north. So if they change, South Africa should be able to do it, any coach should be able to do it, be able to do it. Those five countries are known if there are some injection of courses in capacity and remodeling. It should be done in a matter of in some cases, weeks, or a couple of months.

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

Yes. Thank you Father Charlie for mentioning that Egypt is another country that is scaling up rapidly and is getting support for know-how from China. So I mean, again, in terms of diplomacy, you know, there are countries that are being more helpful in trying to transfer this technology. And as Father Charlie rightly said, many vaccines are made in the global south, particularly in India, but they’re made for export. So we we’ve got to think about how to harness these resources that we have to really scale up what’s already available, as well as building new factories.

 

Rep. Schakowsky 

The demeaning that has gone gone on about the capacity of these other countries to actually act and act quickly, that somehow they don’t have the expertise, they don’t have the experience. They don’t have the scientific knowledge. I think that there’s a good deal of racism involved in those kinds of critiques. And certainly misinformation about capacity.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much. I can refer folks to a New York Times op ed that Professor Stiglitz and I published some weeks ago that has a link actually to lists of the qualified world class pharmaceutical companies around the world in Africa and Latin America and Asia that this very moment could be producing indeed, at the World Trade Organization seminar on this matter, held by the World Trade organization’s Director General 1 billion doses of existing unused capacity are identified before even new lines needed to be started up. And the former chief of chemistry of Moderna said with tech transfer, a new line of mRNA vaccines could be started up in three to four months, because you do not have live cell lines to brew. It’s all organic chemistry. So as a practical matter, it is not a huge gap. It is as Professor Stiglitz said not instant but is entirely changeable. As as Father Charlie said. A question from Natasha  from Zambia, we have now seen that the economic, political and moral arguments we have seen economic political arguments for dropping the IP barriers and allowing countries to produce the vaccines we are being held at ransom by people who themselves have access to these vaccines easily. And they’re not as affected as we are who are unprotected. Why should this be allowed? How can we change this from continuing to happen and from happening in the future? I think we can end with this political question around to all of our amazing participants about what people can do to actually make this change, which again, is everyone is underscored can be fixed instantly tomorrow at the White House. If President Biden can exert the global leadership to get Chancellor Merkel to stop blocking. Panelists, who would like to answer first?

 

Dr. Joia Mukherjee 

I will jump in. I think we need a new moral compass for the 21st century. And we have leaders like Representative Schakowsky who are supporting that, I think we can write to our congress people and our senators to join Representative Schakowsky, people across the globe can be a doing direct action as they are to change Chancellor Merkel’s mind. And to reach out to your representatives, wherever you are in the world. Many leaders around the world have stepped up to this challenge from the global south, as well as from the global north. So I think political pressure works. And we’ve got leaders in our midst, even right here on this call, who can help us to point to the way.

 

Father Charlie Chilufya 

Just a bit of economics, you know, the way that the TRIPS is made, it incentivizes it I don’t know if it’s self interest or, or selfishness, but it’s a promise of  profits. And it is actually against the very foundation of liberal economics. So I think Natasha was speaking about how do we ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future? Beyond TRIPS there is the need to reform the whole TRIPS arrangement, a way of incentivizing production because clearly, there way TRIPS is made even better, it’s even better for some pharmaceutical innovators to work on skin disease in the US, because it’s promises profits, rather than come here and work on some disease that is killing people. So how do we change all of that? So that we look at impact and we look at eradication of poverty, eradication of disease? How we reform that we have a different way of incentivizing so that is a bit of distributional effects that would have more impact on disease eradication and on poverty. Thank you.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you, Father, Charlie. Dr. Mukherjee. Anyone else?

 

Rep. Schakowsky 

Yes, I would. One, I just want to let you know that we did not get we got a response to our request for a meeting. But what the ambassador told us that she would arrange a meeting for us next week that it was going to be impossible for nine members of Congress to have a conversation with her. So I’m disappointed with that response. But I also want to underscore something that Professor Stiglitz said. I think there’s an inside outside strategy that I think Lori you’ve been very effective in mobilizing and Father Charlie and others around the world. Because the majority of money has been taxpayer dollars that has gone into the development of these vaccines. So we not only have ownership, but we also have power to say that because we have provided these vaccines to a large part over the many years that we should be decision makers. And the final thing I want to say is self interest. We are not going to be able to renew the global economy, think about the airlines. Are we going to have traveled to the United States of America? Are German airlines going to be able to fly people around as long as this virus exists anywhere? And so we have so much here at stake in in the in this waiver. And you know, it can happen today.

 

Joseph Stiglitz 

Can I just emphasize first that it is so much in our self interest, in a narrow self interest? That I find it mind boggling that we aren’t doing this vaccine waiver. It may not be a panacea. But it is absolutely obviously clear that it will make a very big difference. And we have to do everything that we can. And hopefully, as we do everything that we get including the vaccine waiver, it will actually put the pandemic under control. The second thing I want to highlight also with the congresswoman just said is that we have the power because we’ve invested this money, we the public, and in some sense, all the private intellectual property is based on research the government as funded mRNA was developed in the University of Pennsylvania supported by to a large extent US government; basic research. Interestingly, many of the patents that some of the private drug companies are using are actually owned by governments. And those governments that own those paths, should use the power of their patent, to put the pressure on the companies to say you can only continue using those patents if you engage in the transfer of technology. So it is not only the waving of the intellectual property, right, but it’s also the transfer of technology that is very important. And finally, I want to echo what Father Charlie said, we’re going to have, unfortunately, a very high probability of more pandemics in the future, we were warned about COVID-19 by SARS, by MERS. And, you know, the evidence of likelihood that we will have another pandemic is very high. We need to have our global health architecture, if you want to think about our global intellectual property regime, the WHO, our whole International Public Health architecture prepared for the next pandemic. And one of the things that we should have in mind as we address this one is how it is setting the stage for the next one. And that means we ought to be very mindful that  there’s been a change in technology. Producing drugs is not a like a one chemical process like it was in the past. The global supply chains are very complicated. And that means the kind of framework we used with HIV and AIDS, HIV AIDS, which was compulsory licenses, is not up to the task of mine modern responses to the new pandemics. And that’s why when there’s a pandemic, we need a kind of waiver of the kind that is being advocated right now, in the midst of this urgent situation that we face.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much.

 

Marian Lieser 

Yes, Lori, may I just a few words? Because I had the feeling that the question actually goes a little bit beyond the present question and is really a political question and I have the feeling that we as a society have to rethink our relationships to corporates as such. So, this is also tackling questions of inequality, of injustice and of possible human economy and we heard Joia mentioning the moral compass we should be on. So this would be the direction we should think, we have to think if we would like to see successful politics in future which are taking into consideration that people, that individual they have to be at the core at the center of all we do, and especially our economy cannot be driven only by profits anymore. So, thank you so much. So, this I know is a little bit beyond what our theme today is, but this are the future themes and I’m sure, unfortunately, we have to really be strong on that in other talks, we might Thank you, Lori.

 

Lori Wallach 

Thank you very much to all of the panelists and to the journalists again, I want to flag at this very moment. And we’re gonna lose Joia right now to run out the door. So thank you. And she’s going to the streets. You can see live streaming right now of this mass protest that’s heading right now to the German mission to the consulate in New York, at the website of Health GAP, and Justice is Global’s website also has this going live. The work that needs to be done to make the broader shift our panelists have described is certainly a mission for many. In the next 36 hours, we can see if Joe Biden can step up and display that global leadership, that is Professor Stiglitz said, in very technical terms is “a no brainer.” And gets the leadership joined by Chancellor Merkel to actually make what as Father Charlie said, could be an immediate difference in saving millions of people’s lives. So with that, I will conclude I would like the reporters and all the panelists to know that the video recording will be up on our website at tradewatch.org. Very shortly, this was broadcast by other outlets, which will also have on their Facebook pages, copies of the video, we will have a transcription of this news conference. And there will be excerpts from each person statements and statements that will be released almost simultaneously, as soon as we conclude so many thanks to everyone, our participants. Thank you so much our reporters, activists from around the world, and with that, we’re going to conclude. Thank you all so very, very much.