The United States not supplying vaccine raw material to India – The Role of US Big Pharma Lobby

Different types of COVID-19 vaccine in glass vial bottles with different storage temperature condition label

So why is The United States not sharing or providing vaccine raw materials to India? 

On Monday, this question was asked to the White House, press secretary, during her daily press briefing about the specific request by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and its CEO, Adar Poonawala for lifting the embargo on raw materials, that would help them ramp up the COVID-19 vaccine production. 

In response to this, the White House chose not to respond and evade the question. And in this respect, there has been widespread debate about why is the United States not cooperating with one of its so-called close allies and quad member India with regards to fighting the menace of COVID. This also raises serious United States questions about, what it means about the trajectory of the broader Indo-The United States relationship under the new Biden-Harris administration.

Many have since questioned the stoic silence since, Adar Poonawala’s, direct tweet to the President of the United States and urging him to lift the embargo on the vaccine raw materials. 

In the press briefing by white coat spokesperson, Jen Psaki when confronted with this question about the embargo on vaccine raw materials, said, “I don’t know. I’m sorry. We could get back to you on that. I’m sure but I don’t have anything for you right now.”

A similar question was also asked during the daily news conference evoking a similar non-committal response.

Let me try to analyze what might be the reasons for this vaccine raw material embargo imposed on India. The pharma lobby is one of the biggest and the most powerful lobbies in the United States of America. In order to understand, just how big and powerful this lobby is, one needs to look at a few numbers. 

The Big-Pharma Lobby in the USA is against cheap vaccine production in India as it dents its desired profitability at the cost of saving human lives

Let’s try to get our head over what the big-pharma companies in the United States try spent on lobbying between 1999 and 2018. An observational study, with publicly available data, found out that lobbying in the United States from 1999 to 2018. The farmer lobbyists spent $4.7 billion that is, on average $233 million per year on lobbying with The United States federal government, in fact, that’s not it. They also spend another $414 million on contributions to presidential and congressional electoral candidates. 

These contributions were mostly targeted or directed towards the senior legislators in Congress, who are involved in drafting health care laws and other state committees concerning pricing and regulation of drug prices. The pandemic situation in the world and the need for vaccines represent a massive opportunity for the big pharma companies that have spent a substantial amount of their budget in the development of COVID vaccines in the last 12 to 14 months.

Covid 19 vaccine with a big pharma background

India is the producer of affordable Healthcare products which includes medicine vaccines and therapeutics. In fact, India is the world leader when it comes to vaccine production of any kind.  The vaccine production efforts of India have led to the elimination of many deadly diseases, for both low-income developing countries and developed countries trying to meet their Healthcare requirements amidst skyrocketing Healthcare costs.

The COVID vaccines in India, at a mass-produced at a very cheap rate, which directly impacts the money-making potential of these large pharma companies.

In terms of their potential to sell vaccines to the world, India has been producing vaccines at a very cheap rate, both indigenous and under licensed production.

In fact, India has the requisite infrastructure to mass-produce a lot of vaccines that the world needs right now. This capability of the Indian medical industry is detrimental to Big-pharma’s plan and desire to rake in big moolah’s take advantage of the Global pandemic situation. 

Indian cheap vaccines are a direct competitive threat to Big Pharma in the United States. So, the big pharma has been lobbying hard with the Biden administration to ensure that the raw materials that are part of the global supply chain and are required by the vaccine manufacturers in India are disrupted. This is to create an artificial sort of shortage of vaccines in India, and also as well because the United States India is a large supplier of low-cost vaccines to a lot of countries in the world.

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