The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Race for Vaccines, or the Race for Profits

Oct 26, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Around the world 42 experimental vaccines are competing in the race to be released on the market.

The biggest and richest laboratories—Sanofi, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, etc.—are preparing to manufacture billions of doses that could bring them billions of dollars, euros, and many other currencies.

First each vaccine was tested on animals to verify that it triggers their immune systems to respond. But before crossing the finish line, a vaccine has to undergo other tests.

First—phase 1—a lab tests whether a vaccine causes an immune response in a small number of human subjects, and does not poison them. In phase 2, a lab tests a vaccine on several hundred people, including the elderly and children, to be sure all their bodies react in the same way. Finally—phase 3—the vaccine is given to tens of thousands of people. Its results are compared to a placebo, a chemical that has no effect. Possible side effects are measured. Only after all these clinical trials, which usually last several years, may health authorities decide whether the vaccine is safe and effective enough to be used and marketed.

But both during animal trials and human trials, also called clinical trials, each laboratory jealously guards its conclusions and its method of evaluation. Each lab’s protocols for assessing its vaccine are kept secret. The situation calls for them all to pool their observations, discoveries, and knowledge internationally. But instead competition between corporations and the competition for profit rule the day. The time of each phase is shortened. Procedures are sped up, which can compromise the safety and efficiency of the vaccines. The health authorities claim they intend to end the pandemic as soon as possible, but this is an excuse. The reality is that competition rages to win the profit race.

This war is accompanied by a huge squandering of money, knowledge, intelligence, and possibly lives. This could fuel distrust of future vaccines and of immunization in general. But the risk does not come from vaccination. The risk comes from competition and business secrecy.