A Covid vaccine for the rich, but not the poor?

Moderna is a BioTech company that has had some recent success with a covid-19 vaccine in clinical trials – vaccine mRNA 1273.

There’s a video about it here:

Moderna says it has the capacity to produce 1 billion shots of the vaccine in 2021 and has already sold most of those shots to rich governments, and stands to make an estimated $8 billion next year from the vaccine.

In one deal the US government has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for 100 million shots (pending agreement of emergency legislation in January). The U.S. also has the option to buy a further 500 million doses (it might take two shots per person to work, so that would cover most of the US population).

More recently Modern agreed a deal with the European Union for up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.

Poor countries set to miss out?

As this article from Global Justice Now points out most of this new vaccine has already been bought up by rich world government.

There doesn’t appear to be much hope that developing countries will gain access to this vaccine in 2021, given that those 1 billion shots the company can produce have already been reserved for richer countries.

The rich benefit

Global Justice Now also report (in the article linked above) that this new vaccine has been funded with nearly $2.5 billion of public money, but with governments paying at least another $8 billion on top of this, this really does seem to be a tidy profit for Moderna.

Moderna’s stock has been increasing ever since it started leaking news about positive progress being made on the vaccine, with two leading executives having cashed out shares and made $30 million each.

The stock continues to rise on the back of the deals being struck with western governments for courses of the vaccine. It has quintupled in value since it started work on the vaccine….

Relevance to global development

This topic is clearly relevant to health and development, and also several theories of development.

This is clearly an example of a Transnational Corporation playing a positive role in development – it is developing a vaccine that will help combat a global pandemic, but we need to go further….

This is also an argument against neoliberal theories of development – governments are very involved here – tax payers money has provided a seed fund for this company and it is governments agreeing to buy the vaccine.

Finally, this seems to support global pessimist theories of globalisation – it is governments with the money and thus people in rich countries who are initially going to benefit from this vaccine, the poor in poor countries are going to have to wait.

We don’t know yet how developing countries are going to pay for this vaccine – if they have to pay? Will it be donated, will it be funded with loans?

That remains to be seen, but for now it seems like it’s vaccines for the rich, nothing for the poor!

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