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Designing Vaccines for People, Not Profits

Summary:
For all the hope spurred by announcements of demonstrated efficacy in multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates, there is still a long way to go to deliver on the promise of a universal, freely available "people's vaccine." As matters stand, national and private interests are trumping the principle of health justice. LONDON – Recent announcements of demonstrated efficacy in COVID-19 vaccine trials have brought hope that a return to normality is in sight. The preliminary data for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s novel mRNA vaccines are highly encouraging, suggesting that their approval for emergency use is forthcoming. And more recent news of effectiveness (albeit at a slightly lower rate) in a vaccine from AstraZeneca and the University

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For all the hope spurred by announcements of demonstrated efficacy in multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates, there is still a long way to go to deliver on the promise of a universal, freely available "people's vaccine." As matters stand, national and private interests are trumping the principle of health justice.

LONDON – Recent announcements of demonstrated efficacy in COVID-19 vaccine trials have brought hope that a return to normality is in sight. The preliminary data for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s novel mRNA vaccines are highly encouraging, suggesting that their approval for emergency use is forthcoming. And more recent news of effectiveness (albeit at a slightly lower rate) in a vaccine from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford has fueled optimism that even more breakthroughs are on their way.

In theory, the arrival of a safe and effective vaccine would represent the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. In reality, we are not even at the end of the beginning of delivering what is needed: a “people’s vaccine” that is equitably distributed and made freely available to all who need it.

To be sure, the work to create vaccines in a matter of months deserves praise. Humanity has made a monumental technological leap forward. But the springboard was decades of massive public investment in research and development.

Most of the leading vaccine candidates prime the immune system’s defenses against the viral “spike protein,” an approach made possible through years of research at the US National Institutes of Health. More immediately, BioNTech has received $445 million from the German government, and Moderna has received $1 million from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and more than $1 billion from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has received more than £1 billion ($1.3 billion) of

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