Is it possible that Biotech Greed just saved the day? Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, recently stated this. Johnson’s remark reflects a widely influential but wildly incoherent view of innovation: that greed—the unbridled pursuit of profit above all else—is a necessary driver of technological progress. Despite later backtracking, Johnson’s remark reflects a widely influential but wildly incoherent view of innovation.
That greed—the unbridled pursuit of profit above all else—is a necessary driver of technological progress. It’s known as the “need-greed” theory. One of the many lessons learned from the epidemic is that Biotech Greed can readily act against the general interest. We should be grateful for the near-miracle creation of efficient vaccines, which have been widely used in developed countries. However, the global picture bears little semblance of justice: low-income countries received only 0.3 percent of global vaccination supplies as of May.
By the end of that month, the UN-backed COVAX initiative, a vaccine sharing plan designed to give developing countries equal access to vaccines, had only delivered roughly 90 million of the two billion doses promised. Pharmaceutical firms, lobbyists, and conservative lawmakers continue to reject patent waivers that would allow local drug makers to manufacture vaccines without fear of legal repercussions. They argue that the waivers will stifle existing production, promote the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.