Big Pharma has hired an army of lobbyists to pressure U.S. lawmakers to block an effort at the World Trade Organization to loosen intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines, which would allow countries around the world to ramp up production, vaccinate more people and bring the pandemic to an end sooner. Dozens of countries from the Global South, led by India and South Africa, are demanding a temporary waiver on vaccine patents, but rich countries, including the U.S. under both the Trump and Biden administrations, have opposed the move. Lee Fang, investigative journalist at The Intercept, says there is a “glut” of vaccines going to wealthy countries while much of the rest of the world is left waiting. “These initiatives that are based on voluntary agreements with the pharmaceutical companies have not worked,” he says. Fang also discusses his reporting on the Biden’s administration’s ties to the vaccine makers: White House adviser Anita Dunn is co-founder of the consulting firm SKDK, which works closely with Pfizer; Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, holds up to $5 million in Johnson & Johnson shares; and White House science adviser Eric Lander holds up to $1 million in shares of BioNTech, which co-developed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine.
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