We are almost one year removed from the first reported case of Covid-19 in New York City. And even as we see signs of hope, thanks to the efforts of so many health care heroes and everyday Americans, we are far from out of the woods. On any given day, we're losing over 4,000 Americans to this virus. Cities across the country are still shuttered in so many ways. Lives are still on the line.
Cities nationwide are doing everything possible to get shots into the arms of our people. But we face the same challenge we’ve faced since the beginning of this crisis.
Vaccines are the shots of hope we’ve been waiting for — to protect our most vulnerable, contain the spread of this virus and get our economy going again. Cities nationwide are doing everything possible to get shots into the arms of our people. But we face the same challenge we’ve faced since the beginning of this crisis: supply. We simply don’t have enough doses from the federal government. As of Friday morning, we’ve administered over 742,000 total vaccine doses to New Yorkers. We have less than 37,000 first doses left to administer … in a city of 8.6 million people.
President Joe Biden is already improving on the paltry efforts of the previous administration. On Jan. 21, he issued an executive order to use the Defense Production Act to its maximum extent. The act has been used by presidents throughout history — but typically during wars — to mobilize private companies in difficult times. Taking advantage of it now makes perfect sense: We are still at war against this virus, with a massive shortage of ammunition.
Which leads to the most crucial piece of Biden’s order: It gives any pharmaceutical company, manufacturer or lab the right to violate normal patent laws and create vaccines, using the successful recipes of others. Think about what that means: The highly effective doses produced by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech could be mass-produced by more companies, right now, using the same methods we know work. To its credit, Moderna has already “stood down” — pledging that it won’t enforce its patents if others try to make its vaccine.
But so far, this isn’t happening. And it is costing us lives. We need two things to happen immediately. First, every company involved in Covid-19 vaccine production should follow Moderna’s lead and stand down on its patents. In a global pandemic, “intellectual property” should not matter. Human lives should. Second, every company that can produce vaccines should be doing so at this very moment. If these businesses need to hire more workers, purchase more supplies, commandeer whatever resources are needed — the federal government should immediately draw up the contracts.
But companies themselves also have to step up. This isn’t the moment to let the free market or shareholder value dictate what you do. It is a moment to save lives. Every day we go without the doses we need, we put more people at risk.
We are ready for millions more vaccine doses here in New York City. We’ve set up large-scale vaccination sites in some of our hardest-hit neighborhoods. We have thousands of health care workers ready to administer the shots. And we’ve launched a massive public awareness campaign to try to build trust — to make sure that New Yorkers, especially in our communities of color, know these vaccines are safe and effective.
Business as usual is the enemy. Biden has recognized this and freed companies from our peace-time rules. We are still at war. It is time for every pharma company, manufacturer and lab to step up, without delay, and do their part. We must be producing vaccines anywhere and everywhere we possibly can. Businesses can act boldly and be on the right side of history. They can play a vital role in getting our cities running again. And they can save so many lives.
But until they stop business as usual, we will continue to lose lives that could have been saved.