Vaccines take years to make. Sometimes decades. The trials are carried out on thousands of volunteers (of different characteristics, clinical trajectories and ages) to make up a varied sample. The maximum objective is that the technology achieved can be effective and safe. In the current scenario, the pharmaceutical companies together with the laboratories of the universities and the associated scientific institutes in each case work around the clock. They concentrate their efforts with the aim that the active substance is available as soon as possible. In this effort, they request immunity from governments, that is, to be protected from lawsuits and lawsuits that they may face due to possible complications in the future. This is not something that should be of concern or undermine the collective confidence in the efficacy and safety of vaccines, but rather it is more common than is believed.
“Having laws that compensate for adverse effects is something that often happens. All vaccines have monitoring programs for unexpected damage because, ultimately, the technologies are designed to solve a health problem and not to generate new ones. They are institutional spaces that are created to verify that everything is fine after massive inoculations ”, says Daniela Hozbor, biochemist and Principal Investigator of Conicet at the Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology of La Plata. Continuing with this reasoning, complete with an example: “In the United States, for a long time, problems have been well determined and classified. I am referring to guidelines of the type: if the adverse reaction emerges after ‘X’ years of having received the vaccine, the State takes over and if it is before, the company that manufactures it. Likewise, compensation is not provided just like that. Previously, clinical studies have been carried out that prove that the person who developed the condition did, indeed, by inoculation ”.
Several European states have already signed confidentiality agreements with the companies. In the medium term, they will be in charge of covering compensation for the unexpected effects of their vaccines. The argument that biotechnology companies could use in the future is that, although they worked with high standards of quality, efficacy and safety; They did it in record time, under pressure from governments and societies around the world. For this reason, they seek to protect themselves in the shadow of a legal framework that protects them from imponderables.
This is the case of the AstraZeneca Laboratory – which together with the University of Oxford agreed with Argentina to produce its formula for all of Latin America – with the European Union. According to the agreement, the firm will only pay the costs for unforeseen conditions up to a certain limit; After this established ceiling, those who should take responsibility for the payment of compensation will be the governments. As its formula will be one of the most accessible on the market – it is expected to cost between three and four dollars – it has more possibilities for negotiation and lobbying. It will be different with other laboratories whose final formulas cost much more expensive. Sanofi, for example, estimates that your dose will cost around ten dollars. In this case, it will be much more difficult for you to obtain immunity from the governments with which you market your product. The Russian government, for its part, has also announced that it would bear part of the responsibility if something went wrong with the formula – christened Sputnik V – prepared by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow.
Heads of State usually agree with biotech companies because, at present, having a tool to stop the spread of the virus has a national priority and would greatly help alleviate the health emergency. In many cases, likewise, pharmaceutical companies tend to protect themselves through the signing of a consent by the citizens who apply it. On this occasion, with the vaccine against covid-19, it may also happen: those who agree should know that they will be applied a vaccine that is provided as an emergency.
In Argentina, last week, the Chamber of Deputies approved with half a sanction a legislative project that empowers the Executive Power to advance in the purchase of vaccines. The requirement is imposed by companies around the world to obtain legal protection. In return, it exempts the pharmaceutical industry from liability. The “Law on vaccines designed to generate acquired immunity against COVID-19” –this was the title of the project – offers “patrimonial indemnity for future indemnities” (indemnities will be assumed by the government and by the industry) and, among Other things, if there are future complications, it will be the foreign companies that choose the site where the trial will take place. At present, only the half sanction of the Senate and the ratification by Alberto Fernández remains.
The lobby of health corporations is well known: they seek to safeguard themselves by all means and the States must give up part of their sovereignty in exchange if they want to have the vaccine. Hozbor’s reflection points along this line. “What you want is to solve a critical health problem. There is enormous pressure on companies, but also on governments. If today there is a solution, it is vaccines, since we are seeing that the antivirals tested have not been very successful. That is why, beyond political positions and sovereignty, if something will help us, I think that we must go for that without a doubt.”, He emphasizes.
However, speculation does not help. For the populations to agree to be inoculated, a relationship of trust with the vaccine must be generated. A bond built on its success throughout history. A success based on the millions of lives they have saved centuries ago. “You must not create false expectations or demonize vaccines from any point of view. Devaluing them would be tremendous because the achievements in history have been truly incalculable. It is the most robust and beneficial technology of all ”, he concludes.