[Ip-health] Mariana Mazzuato in the New York Times: Capitalism Is Broken. The Fix Begins With a Free Covid-19 Vaccine.
thiru at keionline.org
Fri Oct 9 00:27:25 PDT 2020
Capitalism Is Broken. The Fix Begins With a Free Covid-19 Vaccine.
Skewed public-private relationships, like pharmaceutical companies getting
millions from taxpayers then overcharging for drugs, are just one part of
By Mariana Mazzucato
Ms. Mazzucato is an economist.
Oct. 8, 2020
Crises wake us up to harsh truths. Just as the wildfires raging across the
West Coast in September jolted our attention to the realities of climate
change, the economic downfall and health disaster caused by Covid-19 are
forcing us to reckon with longstanding problems in capitalism.
Even before the pandemic caused millions to lose their jobs, workers were
struggling with the precariousness of work caused by the rise of the gig
economy and the deterioration of their bargaining power. Decades of budget
cuts have eroded public services. In many large businesses, the practice of
rewarding shareholders through stock-buyback schemes — instead of investing
in research and development and in wages and worker training — has stifled
long-term economic growth. An era of deregulation has allowed businesses to
pursue short-term returns, leading to disasters like the 2008 financial
Things must change. Governments can use the Covid-19 crisis to address
flaws in our systems and structures. The race for a vaccine is a good place
The only way to end the pandemic is to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and make
it available for free to every person in the world. To achieve this, the
public sector needs to shape the drug-innovation process: steering
innovation, getting fair prices, preserving supplies, ensuring that patents
and competition work effectively and using collective intelligence for a
positive impact on public health. This is the intent behind the World
Health Organization’s call for a patent pool.
Most countries, however, are not invested in this goal, nor are they
investing in global health systems to get through the next wave of the
virus. While over 300 vaccine projects are underway, the nations leading
those projects are competing instead of cooperating. The wealthiest
countries are focused on crossing regulatory finish lines, not developing
measures to make a vaccine equitably available or guiding the broader
health-innovation system to focus on public health.
Some countries are also failing to address access issues for their own
citizens. The United States has no safeguards in place to ensure that
Covid-19 treatments and vaccines will be affordable for all Americans, even
though the research and development of those drugs is substantially funded
with taxpayers’ money. In June, the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences
announced that it would charge privately insured patients $3,120 per
treatment course for remdesivir, a Covid-19 drug developed with a
contribution of at least $70 million from taxpayers.
These mistakes are putting lives at risk while prolonging a global economic
On an international level, governments need to work collaboratively to set
firm rules on intellectual property, pricing and manufacturing. They must
reach a consensus on the objective of making a vaccine universally
available and accessible, as this will affect how production of the vaccine
is carried out and governed. Governments also need to write strong
conditions into contracts to prevent pharmaceutical companies from charging
outrageous prices for Covid-19 therapies and vaccines. This will ensure
that the pricing reflects the public contribution to the drugs’ creation.
But the principles behind these changes must apply beyond a Covid-19
vaccine. This is not about punishing companies, but about building a
stakeholder approach — sharing both the risks and rewards of wealth and
value creation and directing economic growth so all citizens benefit.
Now is the time to do things differently — not only because Covid-19 poses
a major threat to our health and economy, but because greater challenges
lie ahead as our planet continues to heat up. Unless we use this crisis to
change our ways, we’ll diminish our chances of overcoming the next one.
Mariana Mazzucato is a professor at University College London and the
author of “The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global
Knowledge Ecology International
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