When the world stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, pharmaceutical companies didn’t. At the moment (August 2020), there are 26 vaccine candidates in clinical evaluation, of which 6 are in the third (and final) phase of the evaluation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

There are 139 more candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation, which shows us that the whole world is trying to get a vaccine against coronavirus.

Who is going to get the COVID vaccine first, and for which price?

There are already concerns that only wealthy nations could get enough vaccines, once they are made, and that the poor ones will continue to suffer.

These concerns were raised by G20 health ministers.

“This is a global issue. We need an agreement on global access and manufacturing at risk [of uncertainty over the results] to purchase very large quantities at low prices for distribution in low-income countries”, said the head of the multilaterally-backed vaccines fund Gavi, Seth Berkley.

But, pharmaceutical companies can’t do that on their own.

“If industry does not know if there will be a market in 18 months, [it] cannot carry all [the costs]. Industry alone can’t provide all the investment needed now for billions of doses”, said executive vice-president of the vaccine producer Sanofi Pasteur, David Loew, in an interview with the Financial Times.

Pharmaceutical chief executives urged governments to work together and to provide funding in order for the treatments, vaccines, and testing to run faster and fairer. There are some more issues – with billions of vaccines needed all around the world, pharmaceutical companies don’t know how to calculate how much raw materials to buy, scale up their production, and then allocate the vaccine fairly, as it is said in the Financial Times report.

One of the companies that have a vaccine in the third phase trial is US-based company Moderna Inc. According to an unnamed source, they are planning to price the vaccine at $50 to $60 per course.

The consequences of pricing the vaccine that much and to give it first to the rich countries may be severe for intellectual property rights. 

“The patent on the vaccine will be widely ignored. The consensus on intellectual property, painstakingly built up over time and spread worldwide over the past two decades, will be busted”, says Mihir Sharma in a Bloomberg analysis.

Is hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) the cure to COVID?

People were excited but the scientific public was doubtful when a study showed that antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine helped people survive coronavirus in the hospital. 

The study was conducted in the Henry Ford Health System in southeast Michigan with 2,541 hospitalized patients. 

“Overall crude mortality rates were 18.1% in the entire cohort, 13.5% in the hydroxychloroquine alone group, 20.1% among those receiving hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, 22.4% among the azithromycin alone group, and 26.4% for neither drug,” is written in their study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

This was great news, especially because the drug is cheap. Even US President Donald Trump praised the HCQ numerous times, even after the scientific community disproved the study and showed that not only patients weren’t doing better with HCQ, but they were more likely to suffer cardiac side effects.

Despite the newly found scientific facts, some doctors, such as Didier Raoult in France, still intensely defend the HCQ as the coronavirus cure

Big Pharma and Big Tech

Big Tech decided to follow Big Pharma in their efforts to prevent people to get access to content demonstrating that HCQ isn’t the right drug to treat the coronavirus.

Facebook and Twitter have deleted posts from world leaders who shared news about HCQ. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claimed that hydroxychloroquine was effective in treating the virus and that people should ignore medical advice on social distancing. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro tweeted about a homemade treatment.

Facebook started fighting fake news around COVID at the beginning of March, working together with fact-checkers all around the world. Once they rate a piece of content as false, they reduce their distribution and show warning labels. 

“For example, during the month of March, we displayed warnings on about 40 million posts related to COVID-19 on Facebook, based on around 4,000 articles by our independent fact-checking partners. When people saw those warning labels, 95% of the time they did not go on to view the original content” is written on Facebook’s about page.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and WHO

That health isn’t just a medical issue, but also political, is shown in the Bill Gates and WHO relationship. His foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the second biggest donor of WHO, after the United States and the U.K., according to the Politico.

The problem with that kind of influence is that Gates’ priorities have become the WHO’s, says the Politico article. 

On the website of WHO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is mentioned to have three priorities: Discover new insights to fight serious diseases and other health problems affecting developing countries; Develop effective and affordable vaccines, medicines, and other health tools; and Deliver proven health solutions to those who need them most.

WHO works in this way – member states pay less than a quarter of their budget and the rest comes from governments, Gates, other foundations, and companies. They give money in order to research a specific disease, so WHO doesn’t have the freedom to decide how to spend the money. 

That is why some criticism comes to Gates Foundation, when 36 public interest, health, and citizens’ groups sent penned an open letter to WHO’s executive board asking the board to defer the decision to accept the Gates Foundation for Official Relations status, because of their conflict of interest.

The problem is that the Gates Foundation is investing in many foods, alcohol, and physical inactivity-related consumer products, that cause or treats the current crisis of preventable heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, as it is said in the open letter.

Was coronavirus made in a lab? Was it a secret bioweapon?

In the mid-October 2019, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation together with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the World Economic Forum organized Event 201, a high-level pandemic exercise.

They organized this event because of the many (approximately 200) epidemic events around the world happening every year. 

“The exercise illustrated areas where public/private partnerships will be necessary during the response to a severe pandemic in order to diminish large-scale economic and societal consequences”, is written in the description of the event

Because of the Ted talk Bill Gates made in 2015 and now this event, there are some conspiracy theories that Gates himself created the virus, so he can profit out of the vaccine. 

The billionaire is in the center of another conspiracy theory with ID2020 non-profit. ID2020 is working on digital identification because there is “one in seven people globally who lacks a means to prove their identity”, as it is said on their website.

The project is a public-private coalition, with members from Microsoft, Accenture, NGOs, academia, blockchain firms, and others. They are accused of being involved in Bill Gates’ plans of mandatory vaccination and the implantation of microchips. Reuters fact-checkers debunked the theory that Gates wants to implant microchips into humans, but they didn’t mention project ID2020.

USA Today made a fact-checking article on Event 201, with all the conspiracy theories posts, quotations, and events. They say it is unfounded to claim that the Event 201 predicted the current pandemic, or is tied to it directly in some way.

Despite that, there are still theories insisting that the virus was made in a lab. The Chinese virologist Li-Meng Yan claims that the Chinese military created Covid-19.

She said that she had to flee China after she received threats due to her concerns about the origins of the coronavirus. Hers and other statements were used by the U.S. government to claim that the virus came from the Wuhan lab, which deepened the strained relations between the USA and China in their Trade war.

By George