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Poor Nations Left Reeling After Bill Gates Advised Oxford to Ditch Open Source COVID Vaccine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 3:44am in

Europe is reeling from the shock news that biotech giant AstraZeneca will not be delivering anything like the number of vaccines it promised. The company informed European Union officials that they will only be supplying 31 million doses to 27 E.U. countries, rather than the 80 million they had promised would arrive by the end of March. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti predicted that the news would reap “enormous damage” on the continent that has already sustained over 32 million confirmed cases and 703,000 deaths due to COVID-19.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been hailed last year as a miracle in the global fight against the coronavirus primarily because the research team at Oxford University had promised to share the rights to its product with any and all drugmakers, meaning that poorer countries could produce and inoculate their citizens at cost price ($3-$4 per shot — a fraction of the price of those from Pfizer or Moderna).

Last year, economist and drug patent reform advocate Dean Baker told MintPress that,

The Oxford vaccine is even more striking, since the point was to pay researchers, but not to rely on patent monopolies to generate large profits. We ended up with a cheaper, better vaccine…It would be great if we could take away some lessons from the experience of vaccine development in this crisis and get away from the antiquated patent monopoly mechanism for financing research.”

However, behind the scenes, the Oxford team reneged on their promise, signing an exclusive deal with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, who made no commitment to selling the lifesaving vaccine at a low price. Even less well-known is that the decision was taken at the behest of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. “We went to Oxford and said, ‘Hey, you’re doing brilliant work,’” Gates said, “But…you really need to team up.” The 65-year-old tech tycoon is a strong proponent of patents and spends much of his time shaping global health policy.

James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said that “Gates has staked out this outsized role in the vaccine world…He has an ideological belief that the intellectual property system is a wonderful mechanism that is necessary for innovation and prosperity.”

The decision to put profit before people is likely to have a devastating impact on the Global South. Poor countries are not in a position to inoculate their entire populations, especially as the world’s wealthiest nations hoard the large majority of the available vaccines while refusing to support moves by companies in the Global South to produce them for themselves. As a result, the planet’s poor will have to wait until at least 2024 to be immunized. This latest news is unlikely to do anything but set that clock further back.

Unable to secure a profit in immunizing Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans, Western multinationals have turned their back on those regions, prioritizing those who can pay the most. As a result, those in the Global South have turned to Russia and China for help. While Western media have dismissed these efforts as “vaccine diplomacy” and a “charm offensive,” while casting doubt on the Sputnik V vaccine’s efficacy, global opinion studies show the Russian offering is actually the most trusted option. Hungary has broken with EU laws and unilaterally ordered two million doses of Sputnik V for itself.

Part of the reason why Western medical and pharmaceutical corporations are distrusted in the Global South has to do with Gates himself. In 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation oversaw a shadowy and illegal clinical trial of the HPV vaccine in India, where 23,000 poor girls aged 9-15 were exposed to potentially lethal drugs without even their parents’ consent, leading to seven deaths.

Gates also uses his enormous wealth as political leverage with international organizations to push through his own opinions on health and development programs. As Foreign Affairs noted, “few policy initiatives or normative standards set by the World Health Organization are announced before they have been casually, unofficially vetted by Gates Foundation staff.”

While one man essentially holding a veto on international policy is worrisome enough, Gates also holds many controversial opinions on these issues, making his power particularly problematic. His foundation maintains a close relationship with the notorious Monsanto chemical corporation, which it helped to gain a stronger foothold in Africa. Gates himself is the United States’ largest private farmer, owning nearly a quarter-million acres of American farmland. He also seems uniquely preoccupied with circumcising the men of the Global South. While there is evidence that circumcision helps reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, the Microsoft billionaire’s extremely close links to notorious sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein (who had his own weird fantasies about populating the Earth with his seed) cast doubt on his benign motivations. “His lifestyle is very different and kind of intriguing,” he said of Epstein in 2011, three years after he was convicted of soliciting child prostitutes.

This latest setback in the fight against the coronavirus can be directly attributed to the decision to jealously guard the vaccine’s intellectual property. Seeing as 14,000 people are currently dying every day from COVID-19, this might be Gates’ deadliest advice yet.

Feature photo | Bill Gates holds a vaccine for meningitis during a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 17, 2011. Anja Niedringhaus | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Poor Nations Left Reeling After Bill Gates Advised Oxford to Ditch Open Source COVID Vaccine appeared first on MintPress News.

History Debunked Refutes the Myth that James I was Black

More from the whackier end of racial politics. History Debunked has put up a number of videos refuting various assertions and myths promoted as Black history. One of his videos attacked the claim, seen in the Netflix interracial historical romance, Bridgerton, that Queen Caroline was Black. This has arisen from the fact that one of her ancestors was a 13th Spanish Moorish prince. But that was five hundred years before her birth, and so any biological trace of her non-White ancestry would have disappeared way back in her lineage. Apart from which, the Spanish Moors were Berbers and Arabs from North Africa. They were darker than Europeans – the term ‘blue-blooded’ for the aristocracy comes from the Christian Spanish nobility. Under their idea of limpieza de sangre, ‘blood purity’, the racial ideology that distinguished them from the Moors, their skin was supposed to be so pale that you could see the veins in the wrist. But the Moors were nevertheless lighter-skinned than the darker peoples south of the Sahara, in what the Arabs called Bilad as-Sudan and the Berbers Akal Nguiwen, ‘The Land of the Blacks’. Which I think shows that the Arabs and Berbers, dark as they were compared to Europeans, very clearly didn’t think of themselves as Black.

In this video Simon Webb debunks a similar myth, that James I of England/ VI of Scotland, was Black. This ahistorical idea apparently began with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a Black Jewish sect who believe that one of the lost tribes of Israel went to sub-Saharan Africa. Webb mentions that a group of them settled in Israel in the Negev. He uses this to try to refute the demand that Israel should open its borders by stating that Israel had taken in people of a number of different racial groups. They are now, for example, taking in people from India. It’s true that Israel has taken in refugees from Africa, but many of the groups they’ve accepted were Jews. In the 1970s they mounted a rescue operation to transport the Falashas, the Black Jews of Ethiopia, away from their oppression in that country to safety in Israel. My guess is that the Indians they’re accepting are also Jewish. There’s an indigenous Jewish community in India, the Bene Israel, and it sounds like some of them may be migrating. There is, however, considerable racism amongst White Israelis. Abby Martin covered this in some of her reports for The Empire Files on TeleSur, in which she interviewed Black Israelis about the abuse, including physical assault, they’d experience. Gentile African refugees, although present, are resented by many Israelis as ‘infiltrators’, the term they also use for Palestinians trying to return to the ancestral lands from which they were evicted during the Nakba, the term they use for foundation of Israel and their massacre and ethnic cleansing in 1947.

But back to the Black Hebrew Israelites and James I. The Black Hebrew Israelites believe that the Spanish Moors were Black, and that they went from Spain to colonise Ireland and Scotland. Which must be news to most Scots and Irish. Mary, Queen of Scots was mixed race, but Lord Darnley, James’ father, was fully Black and so was James. The English, however, were determined to erase any trace of this Black ancestry, and so embarked on a deliberately policy of intermarrying with the Black Scots and Irish in order to make them White, at the same time destroying all the contrary evidence that they were Black. Although this myth began with the Black Hebrew Israelites it has spread out from them into the wider Black community. To support his description of this bizarre myth, Webb on the YouTube page for the video has link to an article in the Zimbabwean newspaper, The Patriot, which proudly promotes this claim.

Was King James I of England black? – YouTube

The belief that the Spanish Moors were Black has formed the basis for an anti-White racist view of history. A few years ago the American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, carried on its online edition a piece by a Black historian, Garikai Chengu. This claimed that the Moors were ‘obviously Black’, and their colonisation of Spain brought science and reason to a Europe then gripped by ignorance and superstition. There’s some basis for this in that the revival of science in the West began when Christian scholars acquired Arab and Islamic scientific texts from places such as Islamic Spain and Sicily after that was conquered by the Normans. However, it’s grotesquely exaggerated and is really just a piece of racial supremacist propaganda, albeit one by Blacks rather than Whites. I think it’s fair to see such Afrocentric views of history as a form of Fascism, including this myth that the Irish and Scots were also really Black. Some historians have no trouble describing certain Black political movements as forms of Fascism. One recent book by an academic historian not only includes the classic Fascist movements of German Nazism, Italian Fascism and various other White, European far right movements, but also Marcus Garvey’s Negro Improvement Association and the Nation of Islam, as well as Narendra Modi’s BJP in India. The inclusion of Marcus Garvey and his organisation may well offend many Black activists. Garvey is one of the pioneers of Black liberation. A month or so ago there was a Black celebrity writing in the pages of the Radio Times recommending that children should be taught about him in school. I really know very little about Garvey, but the claim that he was Fascistic rings true. When I was working as a volunteer in the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol one of the jobs I was given was unpacking some of boxes of material given to the Museum by private individuals and institutions. One of these included a document by Garvey’s organisation. I didn’t do more than glance at it, but it appeared to be describing some kind of military parade or armed wing. This included women’s units and mechanised and mounted forces of various kinds. I don’t know if Garvey and his followers were ever able to set up such a paramilitary force or whether it was all a fantasy. But one of the features of Fascism is its militarism. The Nazis and Italian Fascists, not to mention the various other Fascist movements, all started out as paramilitary organisations complete with uniforms and arms.

Alongside the entirely reasonable demands for social and economic improvement and renewed action to combat White racism, the Black Lives Matter movement has also brought out and articulated strains of overt anti-White racism. One example of this was the attempt by Sasha Johnson, of the Oxford branch of the organisation, to set up her own paramilitary Black army in Brixton to protect Blacks from the cops, and her tweet that the White man wouldn’t be Blacks’ equal, but their slave. Which got her banned from the social media platform. I think there is a real need to start studying and publishing material specifically on Black racism and Fascism. At the moment, there appears to be very little, if any, books specifically published on it. If you search for ‘Black racism’ on Google, what comes up is articles and books on the attacks on affirmative action programmes by right-wing Whites. Way back in the ’90s and early parts of this century there was a book published on Black anti-White violence in America. This might be White Girl Bleed A Lot, which is a similar book. However, I’m not sure how academically respectable the latter is, as I think its author may have joined the extreme right. I can see many people on the left resisting any attempt to categorise and study various Black Fascist movements from the belief that, as Blacks have been oppressed in the West, and are still disadvantaged, it is unfair to characterise such movement as they arose in response to White racism and persecution.

But this does not change the nature of these movements and the racism and racist history they promote. Whatever their connections to the broader Black liberation movement, they’re still racist and Fascist themselves, and should be viewed as such. Fascism everywhere needs to be fought, regarded of race.

Successful Not-for-Profit Oxford COVID Vaccine Threatens Big Pharma Profit Logic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/11/2020 - 5:17am in

The world is abuzz today after a team of medical researchers from Oxford University in the United Kingdom announced that advanced trials of their experimental coronavirus vaccine were a roaring success, with the vaccine possibly being rolled out before Christmas. Testing was done on 24,000 volunteers in the U.K, Brazil, and South Africa, with an average effectiveness of over 70%. However, when the vaccine was administered as a half dose, then patients were later given a full one, effectiveness increased to 90%. Encouragingly, there were no serious side effects registered among any of the volunteers, none of whom had to go to the hospital as a result of being immunized. The U.K. government has already ordered 100 million doses.

Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the experiment, was delighted, stating that,

These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90 percent effective, and if this dosing regimen is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply. Today’s announcement is only possible thanks to the many volunteers in our trial, and the hard working and talented team of researchers based around the world.”

Even better news is that the Oxford team developed the breakthrough vaccine with the explicit intention of supplying it around the world on a not-for-profit basis, meaning that the poorest nations on the planet will not have to worry about being shut out of a cure due to lack of funds. This was certainly not the case with other solutions developed by the likes of Moderna or Pfizer. Indeed, the world’s richest countries had already bought up the majority of their COVID-19 vaccines, whose secrets were being closely guarded, rather than shared widely to help the rest of humanity.

Large scale manufacturing of the vaccine has already begun in ten countries, according to a press release from the University of Oxford. “Today marks an important milestone in our fight against the pandemic. This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” said

Pascal Soriot of AstraZeneca, a bioresearch company that partnered with the 924-year-old educational institution on development and testing. “Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”

 

Good for people, bad for profits

Today’s good news will doubtless challenge corporate pharma’s profit margins (Moderna’s share price has more than quintupled since the beginning of the year), but it also challenges corporate pharma’s logic and justification for high drug prices in the first place.

The pharmaceutical industry argues that research and development are extremely expensive, that market competition and profit breed innovation, and is the only way to ensure new drugs are developed. Yet examples like the Oxford and the four separate Cuban vaccines in development suggest that this logic is faulty, at best.

“This should really encourage some rethinking of biomedical research, as should the Moderna vaccine,” Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research told MintPress today.

There was this absurd view that somehow we could only get good drug development with the lure of a patent monopoly. The Moderna case is noteworthy because, basically the government paid the full cost of developing the drug upfront. We did also give them patent monopolies, but since the government already paid for the research, this was a handout to the company.”

In reality, a huge amount of medical research is actually paid for by the taxpayer, as Baker has already shown, only becoming the intellectual property of private corporations once it is profitable.

 

More advantages

Apart from their willingness to share it with the world freely, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has other benefits over its competitors. Firstly, they aim to make and sell it for $3-4 per shot, rather than the $20 Pfizer charges, or the $25 for Moderna’s offering. Oxford and AstraZeneca have committed to selling the vaccine to developing countries at cost price. And unlike the costlier Pfizer vaccine, it does not have to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit but can be kept in an ordinary refrigerator, making its storage and distribution straightforward everywhere. Further trials of the vaccine involving 60,000 people in the United States, Kenya, Japan, and India are ongoing.

Oxford Covid Vaccine

A vial of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford John Cairns | Oxford University via AP

The vaccine is based on a weakened version of a common cold virus and that has been genetically engineered so that it cannot grow in humans. “What we’ve always tried to do with a vaccine is fool the immune system into thinking that there’s a dangerous infection there that it needs to respond to — but doing it in a very safe way,” explained Professor Pollard. “So we get the immune response and we get the immune memory … waiting and ready if the pathogen itself is then encountered.”

 

An inglorious history

Many will be relieved that an alternative offering to the ones on offer from Pfizer and Moderna has been green-lighted, although suspicion of vaccines remains high, with only 58% of Americans stating that they would be willing to receive a free, FDA-approved shot when the time comes. This, despite the fact that well over 12.5 million Americans have already tested positive for COVID-19, and over 262,000 deaths have been recorded.

Part of the problem is doubtless due to companies like Pfizer’s inglorious history. In 2011, for example, the company finally agreed to pay compensation to families of 11 Nigerian children who were killed in a meningitis trial where the pharmaceutical giant did not gain their parents’ consent to use experimental drugs on them. Two years later, Pfizer was forced to pay half a billion dollars in fines over a false and misleading marketing campaign and $55 million to victims who claimed it did not warn them about the risks involved in taking its acid reflux drug Protonix. And last year, 44 states came together to file a civil lawsuit in a federal court against the giant, accusing it of “one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States.”

AstraZeneca, the British/Swedish multinational partnering with Oxford University, is far from blameless itself, however. Over the years it has been convicted of falsely advertising its products, releasing, overcharging Medicare and private insurance companies, and of carrying out shockingly sexist employment practices.

While investors have forgiven the company for these transgressions, it appears that they are more shocked by the news of a not-for-profit COVID vaccine. Today, the company’s share price slid by two percent following the announcement of the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Baker suggested that the story of the Oxford vaccine should serve as an example of how a more efficiently and sanely organized healthcare system could look like, telling MintPress that,

The Oxford vaccine is even more striking, since the point was to pay researchers, but not to rely on patent monopolies to generate large profits. We ended up with a cheaper, better vaccine, in the sense that it is much easier to store and distribute. It would be great if we could take away some lessons from the experience of vaccine development in this crisis and get away from the antiquated patent monopoly mechanism for financing research.”

Yet with both major parties vigorously opposing Medicare-for-All, even through a worldwide pandemic, it is unlikely that this will cause a major rethink in elite circles, at least. Nevertheless, in a year that has given the world so little to smile about, this new breakthrough is undoubtedly good news.

Feature photo | A researcher in a laboratory at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, England, works on the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. John Cairns | University of Oxford via AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Successful Not-for-Profit Oxford COVID Vaccine Threatens Big Pharma Profit Logic appeared first on MintPress News.

A Celebration of the Centenary of the Birth of Olive Gibbs

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/02/2018 - 3:00am in

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Council, Women, vote, Oxford

100 years since the Representation of the People Act, the act which gave women the vote.

Complexity in our multiple identities: the 2017 Disability Lecture

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/07/2017 - 11:45pm in

University of Oxford Annual Disability Lecture

Crossing Boundaries: Medievalists in Cross-Disciplinary Conversation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2016 - 12:31am in

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Oxford

Launch event for the TORCH programme Oxford Medieval Studies The launch event for the TORCH programme Oxford Medieval Studies included speakers: Emma Dillon (Professor of Music, King's College London); Henrike Lähnemann (Chair of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, University of Oxford); David Wallace (Judith Rodin Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania); and Chris Wickham (Chichele Professor of Medieval History, University of Oxford).

Social Entrepreneurs: What They Really Want

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/11/2014 - 8:45am in