Fantastic pro-choice video from Australia, drives home an important message: no to medical apartheid.
By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 23 2021 (IPS) – At least 85 poor countries will not have significant access to coronavirus vaccines before 2023. Unfortunately, a year’s delay will cause an estimated 2.5 million avoidable deaths in low and lower-middle income countries. As the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General has put it, the world is at the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.
The EU, US, UK, Switzerland, Canada and their allies continue to block the developing country proposal to temporarily suspend the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement to enable greatly increased, affordable supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs, tests and equipment.
Meanwhile, 6.4 billion of the 12.5 billion vaccine doses the main producers plan to produce in 2021 have already been pre-ordered, mostly by these countries, with 13% of the global population.
Thirty two European and other rich countries also have options to order more, while Australia and Canada have already secured supplies enough for five times their populations. Poor countries, often charged higher prices, simply cannot compete.
Big Pharma has also refused to join the voluntary knowledge sharing and patent pooling COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) initiative under WHO auspices. Thomas Cueni, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) Director General, snubbed the launch, claiming he was “too busy”.
Pfizer’s CEO dismissed C-TAP as “nonsense” and “dangerous”, while the AstraZeneca CEO insisted, “IP is a fundamental part of our industry”. Such attitudes help explain some problems of alternative vaccine distribution arrangements such as COVAX. According to its own board, there is a high chance that COVAX could fail.
Suppressing vaccine access
Despite knowing that many developing countries have much idle capacity, Cueni falsely claims the waiver “would do nothing to expand access to vaccines or to boost global manufacturing capacity”, and would jeopardise innovation and vaccine research.
Big Pharma claims manufacturing vaccines via compulsory licensing or a TRIPS waiver “would undermine innovation and raise the risk of unsafe viruses”. US Big Pharma representatives wrote to President Biden earlier this month claiming likewise.
Both Salk and Sabin made their polio vaccine discoveries patent-free, while many contemporary vaccine researchers are against Big Pharma’s greedy conduct only rewarding IP holders regardless of the varied, but crucial contributions of others.
Big Pharma’s price gouging
Vaccine companies require contract prices be kept secret. In return for discounts, the EU agreed to keep prices confidential. Nonetheless, some negotiated prices were inadvertently revealed, with a UNICEF chart listing prices from various sources.
Reputedly the cheapest vaccine available, Oxford-Astra Zeneca’s is sold to EU members for around US$2 each. Although trials were done in South Africa, it still pays more than twice as much, while Uganda, even poorer, pays over four times as much!
US negotiated bulk prices, for Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, are much higher, at US$15.25–19.50 per dose in several contracts, yielding 60–80% profit margins! Moderna will charge the rest of the world US$25–37 per dose.
Quite understandably, most developed countries opposing temporary TRIPS suspension have provisions in their own IP laws to suspend patent protection in the national interest and for public health emergencies.
Canada, Germany, France and others have recently strengthened their patent laws to issue compulsory licences for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs. European Council President Charles Michel announced that the EU could adopt “urgent measures” by invoking emergency provisions in its treaties.
Similarly, in the US, 28 US Code sec. 1498 (a) allows the government to make or use any invention without the patentee’s permission. To handle emergencies, the 1977 UK Patents Act (section 55) allows the government to sell a patented product, including specific drugs, medicines or medical devices, without the patentee’s consent.
When avian flu threatened early this century, the US was the only country in the world to issue compulsory licences to US manufacturers to produce Tamiflu to protect its entire population of over 300 million. The drugs were not used as the virus was not brought over either Pacific or Atlantic Oceans.
Biden must act
By helping developing countries expand vaccine manufacturing capacity and access existing capacity, US President Biden can earn much world appreciation overnight. US law and precedence enables such a unilateral initiative.
The Bayh-Dole Act allows the US government to require the owner or exclusive licensee of a patent, created with federal funding, to grant a third party a licence to an invention. Moderna received about US$2.5 billion from Operation Warp Speed, which dispensed over US$10 billion.
Moderna was founded in 2010 by university researchers with support from a venture capitalist. It has focused on mRNA technology, building on earlier work by University of Pennsylvania scientists with National Institutes for Health (NIH) funding.
The vaccine developer also used technology for previous coronavirus vaccines developed by the NIH. The NIH also provided extensive logistical support, overseeing clinical trials for tens of thousands. Moderna has already announced it will not enforce its patents during the pandemic.
Thus, POTUS has the needed leverage. The Bayh-Dole Act applies to Moderna’s vaccine, enabling the Biden administration to act independently and decisively against vaccine apartheid.
Sharing knowledge crucial
Developing countries not only need to have the right to produce vaccines, but also the requisite technical knowledge and information. Hence, the Biden administration should also support C-TAP, as recommended by Dr Anthony Fauci.
When the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) was in similar trouble, the Obama administration came forward to put US-owned patents into the pool while encouraging drug companies to help improve developing countries’ access to medicines.
President Biden knows that early US support was critical for the MPP’s eventual success. It dramatically increased production and lowered prices of medicines for HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases in developing countries.
[PANDA have been denied the right to respond to a hatchet piece published by the Daily Maverick, as the recipients of similar treatment by our co-opted, press, we publish their response in full below. – Ed]
From: Nick Hudson
Date: Friday, 5 February 2021 at 08:24
To: Rebecca Davis
Subject: Re: Media inquiry: Daily Maverick ~ Panda
RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS FROM DAILY MAVERICK 4 February 2020
PANDA received these questions at 14h38 on 4 February and was required to respond by 9am on 5 February (4 business hours). Some of the questions posed of PANDA relate to the non-PANDA activities of individuals based in Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Given the timezones, it was not possible to get responses from the individuals in question and we have responded based on publicly available information.
The article that our response is requested to premises a conspiracy between various groups around the world, of which PANDA is, by implication, one. The article is such a tawdry concoction of nonsense that it hardly warrants a response. It is not clear what the purpose of the alleged conspiracy is, but the conspiracy is supposedly coordinated by the former lead psychologist at Cambridge Analytica, who apparently advises these “pandemic disinformation platforms”. The article is authored by a journalist once described by Vanity Fair as engaging in “conspiracy mongering” and is published on a controversial “platform for freelance reporters and writers to produce fearless journalism not found in the mainstream media.” It seems its primary purpose with this article is to attack “hard right politicians” in the UK’s Conservative Party. Daily Maverick would be the first mainstream media publication to publish the conspiracy theory about PANDA and thereby the first to lend credence to the fanciful and defamatory statements about PANDA and its members made therein.
THE FIRST South Africa got wind of the draft license regulations mooted by the SABC was in the form of a broad content debate. One involving Netflix and to some degree Youtube. The country is no exception with Canada recently passing laws to compel streaming firms to pay for local content.
Then SABC Head of TV Licences Sylvia Tladi, stepped into the frey with a narrow call for stricter individual regulation to ‘improve compliance in terms of TV Licence fees” and apparently also plans to extend licensing to ‘include tablets and cellphones’. Effectively a plan to tax the Internet instead of asserting local content requirements for large Pay-per-View channels
The Kingdom of Lesotho proposed a similar scheme last month which could see individual users requiring licenses to use social media, at the same time that mobile operator Vodacom was being fingered over its own license conditions.
A similar scheme under the former Film & Publications Board would have resulted in a million censors tackling the proverbial ‘infinite supply’ of content ostensibly to earn billions of rubles in foreign exchange. A fools errand driving our Peso, sorry Rand economy, and one which would merely create a bureaucratic logjam –a national ‘PayWall’, aimed at the purse of anyone producing online content.
The problem with being seduced by this ‘Tax the Internet’, approach ( no millions of lives will not be saved during the Covid Crisis by rolling out new license schemes) aside from the fact it represents a blunt instrument –a regressive tax on a previously untaxed environment — is that it seeks to tax free content and paid content alike.
Free content provided for gratis, such as that available from the same publication you are reading right now, need I mention my Youtube Channel?
In effect, SABC would be charging its audience (read tablet and cellphone users) for access to Medialternatives copyrighted content, alongside the broader Internet, and without any forethought as to the legal consequences of such a scheme — little more than an unfair and irregular means to hijack free content and resell the result. The Mail & Guardian tried something similar back in 2007 before its news aggregation business was closed down.
Publishers such as Medialternatives and many other local and global free sites, (for example popular site MyBroadband), will not earn a cent or gain any revenue from the proposed SABC license scheme.
The old SABC TV license, like the previous Radio license, has traditionally been used to offset costs at the public broadcaster, but I fear, asking online providers of content to bail out the ageing broadcaster and erstwhile content provider, is taking things a step too far, especially when one considers the fruitless and wasteful expenditure under former head Hlaudi Motsoeneng
Robbing Peter to pay Paul , really calls into question the entire rationale behind the license amendment bill and its motivation, supposedly to rectify the adverse effect on local talent who often find themselves competing with foreign media houses. Spare a thought to those of us who find it extremely difficult to enforce copyright even at the SABC, and not least the terms of permissive licenses, within the current legal environment.
I therefore propose something similar to the highly successful Internet Black Out orchestrated by the late Aaron Schwartz, also known as the day the Internet Stood Still. In which online content providers blacked out their content to protest censorship. Until then, simply put up a banner alerting users to the proposed SABC Tax on Free Content.
UPDATE: A document entitled Suggested Approach to Drafting Digital Services Tax Legislation has emerged. Let’s hope we don’t end up with a ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to the issue.
YESTERDAY South Africans awoke to discover the press were having a field day with Glen Snyman, a teacher at Grootkraal Primary School in the Karoo region. Snyman apparently was charged with fraud after he allegedly identified himself as “African” on his CV for a position at another school in 2017, but had indicated “coloured” on other documents.
If destroying the man’s career in order to promote a new form of petty apartheid in the form of the Employment Equity Act wasn’t enough, the insinuation that Snyman, the founder of People Against Race Classification (PARC), was not merely breaking the law, but was now passing himself off as someone else, in effect, pretending to be black, was truly galling.
In dropping the charges without issuing a retraction of its race-inquiry, the Education Dept, appear to be saying: ‘We’ll overlook what Snyman did, but don’t do it again”. Instead of introducing a points-based system in order to tackle the problem of historical disadvantage within a neutral and objective framework, the law has unfortunately, tended to encourage and even retrace failed policies related to pseudo-scientific racism.
In 2008 Kobus Faasen sued Media24’s Die Burger for collectively describing persons of colour as ‘Bushmen’, only to discover that the law also regarded him as a Bushman, and he had been passing himself off as a “Coloured” for years.
In 2010, my own identity became the subject of a racist religious inquisition at the behest of a corporation instrumental in the creation of the apartheid state, a corporation which thought nothing of deploying one of its own representatives, Halton Cheadle, to act on the bench.
In March this year, global media carried the story of one Jessica Krug a “white professor of African-American Studies, who in her medium confessional claimed: “To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim …”
She appears to conclude “I have built my life on a violent anti-Black lie, and I have lied in every breath I have taken”.
Unfortunately the same may be said of any person who has ever been inspired by the works of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Steven Biko.
The two incidents, that of Snyman and Krug, are reminiscent of the 2015 Rachel Dolezol affair affecting the anachronistic National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) whose aims include ensuring ‘a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race”.
As Jelani Cobb put it, if Dolezol was lying, ‘she was lying about a lie, the lie of race’, or in words of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘race is the child of racism, not the father’. Read: We are All Rachel Dolezol Now. And my unpublished letter: The context of race in today’s society is anything but normal.
Both Krug and the Dept of Education, erroneously assumes there to be distinct race categories separating black and white, and thus if one follows the resulting analysis, readers can be forgiven for assuming blackness to be the result of the ‘colour of ones skin’, or a ‘preponderance of African ancestry,’ both claims resoundingly disproven and shot down by science.
It was the late black consciousness leader Steve Biko who challenged the apartheid state by seeking to move blackness away from the realm of pseudo-scientific inquiry and into the realm of political and existential thought, in the process eschewing legalistic definitions deployed by the apartheid state, and related to ethnicity, hair and skin colour.
Recently Dr Lee Berger, well-known paleoanthropologist and discoverer of Homo Naledi, reiterated the evidence that there is ‘no separation between the species’, we are all one species, Homo Sapiens, with a common heritage in Africa.
That there is such a thing as a truly authentic identity, a coherent mental attitude constituting a standard of normality, is unbecoming of our Dept of Education, which should at least be familiar with the tragic attempt by the Nationalist government of South Africa to police race segregation.
In short, all human identity is fictional at best, since the moment one examines a human being in situ, the physical facts of our inter-relatedness emerge, as too our common African ancestry.
SEE: David Masondo’s Are Indian, coloured and white people really African in post-apartheid South Africa?
THIS past week saw some of South Africa’s top judges demanding a retraction of remarks made by former ANC youth league leader Andile Lungisa that ‘his case was unfairly decided because of political pressure and affiliation”.
If everything was hunky dory in our Republic, the erstwhile ANC deployee, would have zero basis for making such statements, and given the deteriorating circumstances, still serve his time, but I fear things have gone from bad to worse.
The deplorable situation in which certain members of the judiciary, (and I include acting judges such as Halton Cheadle) appear to be actively involved in petty party politics, (beneficiaries of party-political largesse, if not on the payroll), is only magnified by the recent statements of the Chief Justice and the various cases brought against the nation’s many juristocrats.
If the Judge Hlophe saga doesn’t raise ones ire about the status quo in which there is a visible lack of opprobrium and absence of a functioning civilian mechanism of discipline within the broader profession itself, then the public surely needs to be reminded that it was Judge Hlophe himself who called for a commission of inquiry into his own behaviour?
Certainly a case of deferral, deflection and proverbial passing-of-the-buck, to quasi-governmental commissions which have shown themselves unable and unwilling to deliver on decades of inquiry and complaint? What next, news that Hlophe has appointed his wife as the chairperson in charge?
Will Zondo spend the next decade taking testimony which would best be considered by a grand jury comprising the National Provincial of Councils, if not the entire legislature?
That there remain institutional problems inherited from the past which have not disappeared under the new dispensation is abundantly clear. The Western Cape division is a veritable Vorster bantustan, its chambers replete with photographs of apartheid-era judges going back to colonial times.
A division which persists in promoting an anti-Secular, anti-Enlightenment, multiracialist and multiregionalist ‘nouveu-apartheid’, can only be condemned.
The untenable situation in which legal professionals are elevated to the status of nobility within a juristocracy out-of-kilter with our non-racial democracy may be demonstrated by the abject failure of the Judicial Services Commission to do anything about several complaints before it, including my own.
But let’s not run away with the Lungisa debacle, and belittle the irony of the situation, forgetting the real predicament of those within the very self-same political formations responsible for bending the judiciary to their egregious aims.
At the end of the day it is the ruling party which is to blame.
A CAMPAIGN to eliminate or reduce the availability of alcohol under the guise of recent public health policy interventions appears to be under way. Bolstered by the ban on alcohol sales in terms of the National Disaster Act, the group made an appearance on eNCA last night, apparently to ‘debate the ban’ and a series of regulations gazetted in terms of legislation which is currently under judicial scrutiny.
Although Leslie London, of Public Health Medicine at the University of Cape Town agrees with Maurice Smithers of the African Alcohol Policy Alliance that the ban is not sustainable in the long-term, he appeared to offer contradictory information. On the one hand the initial ban also affecting transport had ‘reduced trauma cases in hospital wards’, on the other, the later ban without the transport component, ‘had not shown significant reductions’.
Mary Makgaba from POWA asserts there is ‘a strong correlation between gender based violence and alcohol abuse’, but agreed with the economic arguments that people’s livelihoods also mattered. Yet as often noted, correlation does not imply causation — the presence of alcohol is not sufficient reason to infer gender bias, in the same way drinkers are not all necessarily men.
While Makgaba was in support of restrictions, Both London and Smithers claimed that ‘alcohol is a drug’ requiring stronger regulation by government. They argue that South Africa should adopt the WHO guidelines on ‘reducing availability, increasing price of alcohol and curtailing or banning alcohol advertising’.
Prohibitionists have historically used religious arguments to ban alcohol, but today’s members of the temperance union rely upon the fact that alcohol is classified as a ‘central nervous system depressant’. Instead of arguing for harm reduction, they wish to closet alcohol use behind a veil of bourgeois values and assertions — reducing the size of beer bottles, making alcohol less affordable or simply unaffordible to the working class and poor.
Some of the suggestions made by Smithers appear eminently reasonable at first glance, for example, reducing the number of outlets or restricting the amount of alcohol available to purchase, yet each carries a price, the problem of enforcement and consequent danger of the criminalisation of alcohol users who do not comply.
After decades of filling the nation’s jails with drug users, the motion to lock up alcoholics is the antithesis of harm reduction and drug liberalisation strategies. Broader societal harm caused by alcohol needs to be weighed against the long-term harm caused by a reduction in individual freedoms and the rise of a police state — the true cost of policing and enforcement of policy, not simply upon people’s lives but also livelihoods.
The science provided was also incredibly thin, mere references to materials handed out by the WHO — there is yet to be a national review of the medical literature with any input from the social sciences and humanities.
Banning private transportation for instance, as London appears to suggest, would offer an immediate benefit to hospital wards, but just about nobody and not even the Professor of Public Health, is standing up complaining that the cost of vehicle transport on people’s lives is way too high, nor are today’s temperance union members averring that drunk-driving offences receive longer sentences.
South Africa remains a democratic republic where public health policy is set in terms of a constitutional dispensation not medical fiat. A dispensation that enshrines individual freedoms over the body, and a political reality that is not the result of the diktat of bureaucrats in Geneva, but rather a democratic revolution.
Is anyone in Pretoria listening?
IF YOU happen to follow the tech sector on Wall Street, you may have noticed two prominent stock splits announced over the past two weeks. The first by Apple, a 4 -for-1 split, and the second by Tesla, a 5-for-1 split. A stock split ‘creates more shares of a company without changing the underlying value of any single investor’s holdings.”
Stock splits were once considered common when a company’s share topped $100, but fell out of favour during the dot.com boom, since then, they have been making a reappearance and driving retail investors on Wall St.
If our reserve bank can lower interest rates, once considered unthinkable, then surely it is time for entrenched capital markets on the JSE to consider doing things differently?
The country’s tech sector is dominated by Naspers (NPN) and Prosus (PRX), which together make up more than 20% of the benchmark index. Both are affected by the US-China trade war and sanctions announced by Trump against WeChat.
It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen, not the sanctions, which I believe are well-deserved given the clamp-down on press freedom in Hong Kong and the arrest of Jimmy Lai, and failure by Naspers to support the TRC process and truth about apartheid, but rather the situation where the fate of two interlocked stocks, (Naspers NPN currently trading at some R3113 and Prosus PRX R1,690) are able to bounce the local bourse by 5-10 percentage points.
Notwithstanding the debacle over NPN share structure. The concentration of capital suggests that far from being a rosy picture of competition the South African tech sector is held captive by one or two big players. Unless the country modernises, either by making share ownership more accessible to retail investors, or by doing more to including local tech companies and startups, the country will be stuck with a failing Post-Reset resource and industrial sector , that could turn out to be unprofitable at any price.
Where the nation’s households are dependent upon income from retail investment, the nation’s finances appear to be beholden to vested interests and boardroom intrigues driven by the Public Investment Corporation. Instead of postponing a Basic Income Grant (BIG), or repositioning the PIC to take a more active role in a sovereign investment strategy, (does anyone remember that fund proposal announced shortly before lockdown?) our government could be unleashing fiscal stimulus where it matters most — creating an SMME revolution that tackles climate change, renewable energy, micro-grids and emerging technologies.
Instead of building more roads and bridges, and revisiting the siege economics of the 1970s, we could be rolling out mass transit solutions, high speed trains and technology smart connected cities to rehouse low-to-medium income families. See one award winning proposal here.
If households were empowered to produce basic necessities via food garden allotments, and electricity via community micro-grids and an energy commons, we would be in a lot better shape moving forward.
Instead of spending tax rands on white elephants such as Medupi and Kusile, we could be driving energy efficiency and large scale battery energy storage alongside an EV support programme that gets minibus taxis off the fossil fuel habit.
Instead we have created a predatory PPE kleptocracy and Eskom energy ransom system that has nothing to do with equal opportunity and everything to do with the politics of servitude and feudalism which is at the heart of the ANC ideological discourse.
Time to give Pretoria/Tshwane bureaucrats their marching orders.
Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’ Jul 19, 2020, refers.
I live in a country that for many has come to symbolise both institutional racism, and a remarkable transformation from the segregation of apartheid to the non-racialism of our democratic constitution. With many of the Mandela-era promises remaining unfulfilled, and in the light of the recent controversial address on global inequality by UN secretary general Guterres , I wish to remind your readers that our nation’s project of reconciliation and non-racialism remains a current work-in-progress.
Your correspondent Janice Gassam valiantly attempts to ‘deconstruct and dismantle anti-Blackness’ by proposing ‘there must be a normalization of Blackness’. Unfortunately, the context of race in today’s society is anything but normal. Aiming to normalise distinctions made according to race, a tired fiction at best, merely rehashes the logic of the black consciousness movement of the seventies, whose chief proponent, the late Steven Biko, sought to address slogans such as ‘black is beautiful’ at the same time that he maintained “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”
Gassam says: “There is a commonly held belief that white people are the only perpetuators of racism and anti-Black bias and that as a person of color (POC), you do (sic) cannot hold racist views. Adopting this mindset will make deconstructing anti-Blackness much more challenging.”
She then asserts, “One phenomenon that is rarely discussed is the idea of white adjacency. While the term hasn’t been fully defined in a lot of detail, it can be thought of as the benefits received by a POC because of their proximity to whiteness.”
The link provided for the term ‘white adjacency’ is to a student news organisation, and the article is merely an opinion piece without any academic citations nor context. If context were provided, it would immediately become clear that this phrase is positioned within critical theory, and the field of subaltern studies, a field of research which examines colonialism, post-colonialism and the problem of elitism and elites.
Suggesting that all persons of colour who collaborate with their white colleagues, are simply compradors, or ‘agents of whiteness’ is a regressive political position that begs the question of who is white and who is black?
In this myopic worldview, a ‘white student’ standing in solidarity with ‘black students’ on an apartheid campus, cannot be hurt by gunfire. In the same way that it is claimed by some, that Neil Aggett was not tortured by the apartheid special branch, and Ahmed Timol, the subject of a recent inquest, wasn’t murdered.
Furthermore, identity politic of the type advocated by Gassam is bound up with a multiracial view of the world, one which instead of tackling elites by promoting equal opportunity and non-racialism, treats society rather as a binary battle between two competing groups, ‘the blacks’ and ‘the whites’. Both are racial terms which have been shot down by the broader scientific community and have absolutely no merit in academic discourse, save for reminding us that scientists once believed in distinct and separate race groups and thus a multiregionalist theory of evolution.
An identity war between the races may sound appealing, especially if it leads to more sales of Nike products, or a political counter to the Trump administration, I however fear that nothing good can come from such polarisation. Assuming that every act of collaboration with the other, is an act of assimilation, denies human rights and human agency. One may equally claim, that such acts are cultural appropriation and outright theft.
Even worse than denying universal and democratic values, positing blackness or whiteness as a new norm, risks removing any defense a person may have in law against racism. I have only to point out my own unhappy experience being classified by the apartheid state, to demonstrate why such categories are legally and philosophically problematic.
David Robert Lewis
NOTE: Unpublished letter sent to Forbes