Tag: COVID-19

Added by PressForward

We need vaccine equity… not your leftovers.

Covid-19 vaccine.

In January 2021, Dr. Tedros, WHO Director-General, warned that the unequal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines was about to be a “catastrophic moral failure”. At that time, rich countries had already guaranteed the purchase of more doses of vaccines than the number of inhabitants on Earth, effectively leaving other countries without access. In December 2021, reflecting the already predictable greedy gluttony, poor countries refused to receive nearly 100 million doses of donated vaccines because they were about to expire. These stories remind me of the legend of the ancient Roman aristocrats who vomited between courses to make the most of all the extravagance of endless banquets. And both the Romans and the current practice of rich countries illustrate a fragile morality.

Urgent vaccine development

The rapid escalation of Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020 marked the beginning of a rush to vaccine development. Never in such a short time, has so many public funds been allocated to fund the research and development of a new vaccine. Due to the immense contribution of public investment, the possibility of having a vaccine free of intellectual property rights was idealized. A real hope that would allow for technology transfer, leading to large-scale production at a global level. However, one and a half years after the first vaccine was licensed, the world is still witnessing inequality and inequity in access, reflected in the discrepancy in vaccination coverage. While the average of fully vaccinated individuals in high-income countries is 57%, this rate is below 5% in low-income countries.

The COVAX Facility was put in place to pool vaccine purchases globally for low- and middle-income countries, negotiating fair and competitive prices to allow all countries to access the vaccines. However, in practice, rich countries took the lead, entering contracts directly with pharmaceuticals, leaving negotiations with COVAX in the background. It is precisely this negotiating power that patents bring to pharmaceutical companies. They decide how, to whom, and when to sell. The report “A Dose of Reality” exposes that western Pharmaceuticals have delivered only 12 percent of the doses they allocated to COVAX. The same report points out that of the 1.8 billion Covid-vaccine donations promised by wealthy nations, only 261 million doses – 14 percent – ​​have been delivered to date. As a result, low-income countries are forced to participate in negotiating directly with pharmaceuticals, but in unfair competition, they end up paying up to 3 times the amount paid by rich countries.

Time to break the patent of vaccines?

So, is this the time to break the patent on Covid-19 vaccines? In 2021, more than 100 countries – led by India and South Africa – appealed to the World Trade Organization for patents to be provisionally waived by pharmaceutical corporations so that more countries could produce and sell Covid-19 vaccines and thereby increase access for low-income countries. Their call was left unanswered. On the other side, rich countries and pharmaceutical companies keep intoning the mantra that intellectual property right is fundamental to cover their expenses and enable and incentive research and development of new technologies. The companies made this argument, despite the fact that Covid-19 vaccines were funded largely by public investments. No other example represents this contradiction more than AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which had 97% public funding and was initially designed as a non-profit undertaking.

It may sound extreme, but many countries have loopholes in their constitutions that authorize their government to break patents. In Brazil, for example, if the patent holder practices financial abuse, and in the United States, in national insecurity through compulsory licensing, the government can temporarily withdraw patents of essential products. One of the most remarkable examples of breaking a patent was when in 1998, South Africa broke the patent of 39 HIV drugs at once after concluding that prices were far too high to implement a universal treatment model. That year, pharmaceutical corporations mobilized actions against South Africa, demanding sanctions at the WTO. However, the comprehensive media coverage and corporate bad will led companies to drop the lawsuit and begin negotiations with the South African Government to address price reduction.

“We have failed as a society”

The difference now is that middle-income countries with the potential to be leading producers of patent-free vaccines, such as Brazil, South Africa, and India, already have contracts guaranteeing the necessary access for their vaccine coverage following the WHO targets. Thus, the fight for breaking patents is not an agenda of their interest, leaving the world’s poorer countries without essential allies. Perhaps the issue is a moral one. Instead of fighting to break patents, patents should never have existed, at least during a global pandemic, which so far has led to the death of 6 million people. When it comes to covid-19 vaccines we have failed as a society. We are experiencing a catastrophic moral failure.

Written by a Master student at Lund University. Edited by Jesper SundewallAssociate Professor of health economics at HEARD at University of KwaZulu-Natal and of Global Health Systems at the Social Medicine and Global Health division at Lund University.

Development Geographies: Current Debates

Stockholm University and Gothenburg University offer a course at the National Doctoral College (NDC), which is also open to PhD students in other social sciences and other European countries (given the partially hybrid format of the sessions).

About the course “Development Geographies: Current Debates”

We live in unprecedented times, when ‘normality’, including around development processes, is perforated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also become a moment for reflection on the harms (to people’s livelihoods, for instance) and recompense (the environment) of this pause, with this awkward phase rightfully nudging us to revisit questions on the nature of the global economy and development processes itself. This course is on development geographies. Yet, instead of revisiting the depth and richness of the development paradigm and its contested nature, we use COVID-19 as a point of departure to focus on current debates around feminism and social reproduction, degrowth, political ecology, and decoloniality. These contemporary discussions will help us disrupt development geography, as we have known it – and hopefully, help craft a toolbox that brings to the forefront the need for regenerating state that recognizes the depletion and social harm four decades of the market-centric global economy has wrought.

We will organise the course around three pivot points:

  • depletion, social reproduction and regeneration – to make feminist and gender debates central to contemporary contributions to global development;
  • political ecology and the calls for degrowth in rebalancing the global economy;
  • decoloniality and urban life – the calls for disrupting and uprooting the development
  • paradigm from its colonial past and the contested nature of claim-making

Course admissions and information

This course is directed to geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and economic historians who are pursuing research that relates to development geography in some way. The course is conducted as a Swedish national PhD-course in Human Geography, which means that in case of a large number of applications, priority will be given to PhD-students at member departments, ie human geography departments in Sweden. However, the course is also open to doctoral students in cognate disciplines both from Sweden and beyond; as well as in rare cases to early career researchers.

There is no course fee, but participants will have to cover travel, accommodation etc. by their own
arrangements. PhD candidates from the Departments of Human geography in Sweden make the
arrangements with their home institutions.

The course will be held via two online sessions and a final one together as a group. The course assessments will consist of continuous evaluation of class participation and engagement, along with an obligatory 4,000-word essay framed alongside viewpoints, critical reviews, and research notes (including references). The assessment details will be distributed and discussed in further detail at the first meeting (September 2022).

National PhD research courses

The National Research Program in Human Geography was established in 1997. It aims at:

  • Providing all doctoral students with access to research courses at the Swedish geographic departments;
  • give all PhD students the opportunity to gain access to research skills outside their own institution;
  • offer courses with lectures by invited scholars from Sweden and abroad;
  • offer doctoral students the opportunity to meet other PhD students and researchers.

Should you have further information, please refer to Kanchana Ruwanpura or Lowe Borjeson.

Developing countries at risk from global economic threats, says World Bank

The World Bank in Washington.

The risk of a hard landing for large parts of the global economy is rising as countries struggle to cope with the triple threat of Covid-19, inflation and higher interest rates, the World Bank has said.

In its half-yearly forecasts, the Washington DC-based bank said it expected a “pronounced slowdown” in growth in the next two years, with the less well-off parts of the world especially hard hit.

David Malpass, the World Bank’s president, called for action to reduce the debts of poor countries and said he was “very worried” about the permanent scarring of development caused by the pandemic. He said:

“The world economy is simultaneously facing Covid-19, inflation, and policy uncertainty, with government spending and monetary policies in uncharted territory. Rising inequality and security challenges are particularly harmful for developing countries.”

David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group

COVID-19 pandemic highlights urgent need to scale up investment in lifelong learning for all, says OECD

This article was first published on OECD.

“Countries must step up their efforts to enable people to continue learning throughout their lives to navigate a rapidly changing world of work shaped by globalisation and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new OECD report.”

OECD Skills Outlook 2021: Learning for Life says that public policies should play a key role in facilitating effective and inclusive lifelong learning, but much remains to be done. It will be crucial to invest part of the resources devoted to the recovery to lifelong learning programmes, involving all key stakeholders and with a focus on vulnerable groups, particularly young people, the NEET (neither in employment, education or training) and those whose jobs are most at risk of transformation, says the report.”

““It’s essential that lifelong learning becomes a reality for everyone since the crisis has further accelerated the transformation in our economy and skills needs. Today, too many adults do not participate in workplace learning and the pandemic has further reduced their opportunities to do so,” said OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann, launching the report in Paris.”

“Even before the pandemic, only two out of ten low-educated adults took part in formal or on-the-job training, compared to six out of ten high-educated adults. The pandemic may also affect the learning attitude of children and youth. The disruptions to regular schooling led many children to progress less than expected in skill development. In the short term, the pandemic could lead to increases in early school leavers. In the medium and long term, lower engagement could result in the current generation of students failing to develop positive learning attitudes, at a time of profound structural changes that will require individuals to upgrade their skills throughout their life, warns the report. Furthermore, the report identifies potential cause of gender inequality in training opportunities. Up to 28% of “inactive but motivated” women mention family obligations as a barrier to participating in training, compared to only 8% of men. The gender gap widens when children appear in the family.”