The lock that central economies imposed on vaccines and health supplies when the pandemic was declared has been a forceful demonstration of the strategic importance of having its own pharmaceutical industry. Argentina has an indigenous vaccine in development, another associated with Mexico and this Friday the presidents Alberto Fernandez Y Vladimir Putin, from Russia, launched Sputnik V, “Vida”, the “Soviet” vaccine, the complete production line of which will be carried out in the country by the Richmond laboratory.
Argentina could have promoted the development of vaccines designed, elaborated and produced by scientists from Conicet and the University of San Martín, but the project would only be finished at the end of the year. The urgency forced to look for immediate options. The first was to develop the AstraZeneca vaccine in partnership with Mexico, a project that arose from the conjunction of the mAbxience laboratories, of the Argentine businessman Hugo Sigman, with the investment of the Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, who put as a condition that the active principle of the vaccine produced in Argentina, was packaged in the Mexican laboratory Liomont.
The Argentine side produced the active principle for millions of vaccines and sent them to Mexico where they were paralyzed because the United States did not allow the export of specific filters to divide and package the medicine. It was another demonstration of the way in which central economies hinder the technological development of peripheral economies, because that development makes them independent.
The Pfizer scandal
The sleeplessness of the opposition for the vaccine preferred by the United States on Thursday motivated the accurate phrase of the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero: “they seem like medical visitors rather than political.” Failure to close negotiations with Pfizer has been one of the main criticisms of the opposition. The argument is completed with that behind the problems with Pfizer there would be anti-American prejudices.
Actually, the first choice was Pfizer because it seemed like it would be the first to hit the markets. It was the first to obtain the approval of the Anmat because, in addition, part of phase three of the vaccine was carried out in Argentina. AstraZeneca emerged after Pfizer, when negotiations were still under way with the US laboratory (which absorbed Parke Davis), one of whose main shareholders is the investment fund BlackRock and which has a powerful diplomatic and media lobby.
Former President Donald Trump has banned vaccines from the United States, making it very difficult for Pfizer to honor its contracts. The urgency of the governments put a maximum tension. The European Union laboratories that produce Pfizer supplied Germany, but Britain monopolized the AstraZéneca vaccine, delaying the vaccination program in several countries.
Israel, with nine million inhabitants, carried out the fastest vaccination campaign. It has a strong health structure that it made available to the laboratory to closely monitor its product, but to get it, it also had to pay about $ 50 for the Pfizer vaccine, double what the Europeans paid.
The causes of negotiation failure
The race against the spread of the virus, determined that phase three of all vaccines was shortened. Otherwise the vaccination would have been delayed one or two years. Which would have meant millions and millions more deaths. The WHO and the sanitary control institutions of all the countries gave an “emergency” approval for which the laboratories suggested that they exempt them from responsibility. The health agencies considered that its effectiveness was sufficiently proven without negative consequences, and the request from the laboratories was approved.
Pressured by its limitations to supply all the contracts, Pfizer extended the negotiation with Argentina, where a negligence clause had been added to the liability exemption. In other words: laboratories are not exempted if the vaccines arrive in poor condition. Pfizer does not accept this clause. And the government does not accept to put as collateral against any claim to the sovereign assets of the country. Which can be from the glaciers, to the school ship.
In December, the government had contracts for 47 million vaccines. These alternatives (since it started with Pfizer, talked with AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Sinopharm and Covax), were not months, but were carried out in a few weeks between November and December of last year, many were simultaneously and are still they have other negotiations. In December of last year, the government estimated that by August of this year more than half of the population would be vaccinated. But the delays in January and February, of all the contracts, even with Sputnik, made vaccination slow in the first months.
At this time, the public vaccination monitor indicates that there are 10 and a half million people with one dose and 3 million with both. If the current vaccination rate is maintained, the government would arrive at the end of July not far from the goal it set, even though most had only the first dose.
Of the 30 million vaccines that Covax distributed in Latin America, less than 10 percent have been from Pfizer. The scandal that the opposition tried to set up because the government allegedly refused to receive this vaccine is unsustainable.
It is not a charitable body. Although financed, the vaccines are paid in the Argentine case. And in addition to governments and WHO, Covax has representatives from industry and other market players. Covax would never have delivered Pfizer vaccines to a country that did not finish negotiating with that laboratory because it would have interfered with the transaction.
Pfizer does not deliver, CABA does not get
Along with Sputnik and Moderna, Pfizer is among the three vaccines with greater than 90 percent efficacy. But it is more expensive, and its handling is problematic because it has to be kept at minus 70 degrees. And, if he had, it would not have changed a thing. Chile had signed contracts for 10 million Pfizer vaccines in December last year and the first shipment was 21,000. After several months, he has received two million and most of his campaign had to be done with the Chinese Sinovac. Brazil made contracts with Pfizer for one hundred million vaccines and only received one million. All laboratories showed delays due to pressures in the markets.
Another point of friction has been that the opposition rejected that the national government concentrate the acquisition of vaccines and other health supplies. This system was applied to prevent the country from reproducing between the provinces the difficulties caused by inequality between rich and poor countries, although the law approved on the management of vaccines allows each province, if it wants and can, to develop its own purchases. On Wednesday, the CABA government reported that its efforts with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna had failed. But on Friday, the one who announced that he had signed a contract for 10 million vaccines with India was not an opposition governor, but Axel Kicillof. He said he will deliver the Covaxin vaccines to the national government anyway.