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From: The Socialist issue 1114, 16 December 2020: Unemployment and Covid rising - The crisis is not over - Fight for jobs and safety

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Rich countries hoarding vaccine is danger to us all

Poorer nations in Africa and Asia will face a struggle to obtain vaccines

Poorer nations in Africa and Asia will face a struggle to obtain vaccines   (Click to enlarge)

Nick Hart, Black Country Socialist Party

The Covid-19 pandemic has been truly global in character, with every nation reporting cases. Why is it then, that as the first vaccine shipments leave the factories, your ability to access it will depend largely on what country you're living in?

Scientists have overcome the medical problems of creating usable Covid vaccines. But getting it administered to enough of the world's population to wipe out the virus will be an economic problem as much as a logistical one.

Vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna had barely cleared trials before it emerged that wealthy nations had bought up 96% and 100% of their initial run respectively. Despite having a population of only 32 million, Canada now has enough doses on order to treat over 150 million people!

The ceiling on the number of doses that can be provided shows the limits of the pharmaceutical industry being organised on the basis of capitalist competition. Instead of the drug companies pooling their research, manufacturing capacity, and supply chains to get the maximum amount of any effective vaccines produced as quickly as possible, they are left to negotiate individually with governments.

The result is that as many as 67 low-income countries are unlikely to get enough doses to inoculate more than 10% of their population in 2021. This is added to the relative lack of healthcare infrastructure in many neocolonial countries, resulting from decades of economic suppression by richer counterparts.

Vaccine nationalism

Public health advisers are now warning that the rise in 'vaccine nationalism' could leave Covid in circulation for much longer than necessary. As we saw at the start of the pandemic, the persistence of the virus in one corner of the globe could be the basis for it spreading to other countries once again.

The chaos of the free market is proving unable to efficiently stamp out Covid. To truly protect the working-class majority of the world's population from this and other diseases, we need the development and supply of medicine to be run on the basis of need, not profit, with democratic planning on an international scale. In other words, we need socialism.

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Article dated 16 December 2020

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