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The vaccine business

The race for immunity

By Gierreuno

The deal is gigantic: only in 2021 it is estimated that, thanks to vaccines, large pharmaceutical companies will have an increase in revenues ranging from 120 to 150 billion dollars.

Not bad in a period of pandemic in which the decline in profits in the key sectors of Western economies, oil, arms sales and insurance systems, has thrown the administrations of the Atlantic front into panic, leaving ample space, and therefore greater capacity for pressure on governments. , to the so-called Big Pharma.

The deal is gigantic and has produced a deep furrow between the economies of a strong liberal mold (United States, Great Britain, Israel) and the old Europe anchored to its slowness which is causing a strong delay in the work of immunizing the population.

Suffice it to say that, while England prepares to complete the vaccination of over-50s by mid-April, on March 20, in Italy, only 14.7 percent of those over 80 had received the second dose.

In this context, the vaccine war has started and is raging. A war fought on the skin of citizens in the name of the god of profit that is inserted, in the European context, on the minefield of Brexit.

Let's go back a few months. In May 2020, in a spooky London with collapsing hospitals and a frightening mortality rate, Boris Johnson, after blatantly failing to manage the first phase of the pandemic with the cry of “no closure, we will have herd immunity”, orders 100 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine, thus doubling the bets that had seen Great Britain invest 200 million euros in the vaccine developed on the Oxford-Pomezia axis and produced by the Anglo-Swedish biopharmaceutical company.

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Un post condiviso da Boris Johnson (@borisjohnsonuk)

Only two months later Ursula von der Leyen will turn to the same multinational by signing a contract for the supply of 300 million ampoules. A delay that will prove decisive and which risks being decisive also on the economic front when, after the emergency phase, the recovery arrives.

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Un post condiviso da Ursula von der Leyen (@ursulavonderleyen)

The race for immunity therefore becomes strategic in a world that, after globalization, has entered the post-global phase. Vaccines have become the fuel of the economy and, in order to get hold of them, some governments have shown themselves willing to do anything. Witness the case of Israel, a country where the vaccination work is about to be completed.

How did they do it? Of course, the fact that Israel has a population of 8.8 million people, lower, for example, than that of Lombardy, made the operation easier; but what displaced the western community, struggling with the lack of vials in circulation, was the massive quantity of doses that the Jewish state managed to acquire.

“Israel has paid more than double the European Union for vaccines and has plenty of them”, revealed Roberto Burioni, a well-known virologist at the San Raffaele University in Milan. Easy, right? In a market logic, whoever puts the most money on the pot wins, and so did Israel.

But let's go back to Europe where, as we said, Brexit has become the battleground on which the EU's ability to remain united will be measured, avoiding giving in to the splinter forces that harbor within the member states.

The temporary stop to the administration of Astrazeneca, decreed by Germany and immediately picked up by Italy, Spain and France, seemed to many a sort of warning to the United Kingdom. At stake are the relations between the EU and Great Britain after the latter leaves the Union. Relationships whose definition is still suspended and which will be fundamental to measure the ability of the two economies to recover.

The race to immunization is essentially the first, true, great test on which England and a Europe are measured which, with the departure of Trump (a fan of Brexit) and the rapprochement of Biden to the Old Continent, it could find an unexpected ally at its side: the United States of America. That with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, just to name the main ones, have the opportunity to invade the market and corner Astrazeneca.

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Un post condiviso da Joe Biden (@joebiden)

Vaccines therefore risk becoming one of the most profitable businesses in the coming years and having a strategic role in the planet's economy.

With all due respect to poor countries and to those who, a little less than a year ago, argued the need to make them available to all humanity without making them the subject of speculation.

Like the 130 scientists, headed by a French professor from Tours, Catherine Belzung, who addressed the international community in April 2020, arguing that the effectiveness of a vaccination campaign is based on its universality and that vaccines should be patent-free to be accessible to all.

Only a vaccine will make it possible to definitively stem this pandemic - said Professor Belzung - But in the face of a global crisis, if the vaccine is not available to everyone, not only will it be a terrible injustice, but the disease will continue to spread”.

Words that, in the light of what is happening a little less than a year later, make your wrists tremble.