The Spark

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

Against the Shortage of Vaccines, Pharmaceutical Industry Must Be Requisitioned!

Mar 29, 2021

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

The epidemic is on the rise again and it’s worrying to see just how virulent it is. Some regions are facing a third wave and the disaster scenario is repeating itself with intensive care units reaching saturation, operations being canceled and patients being transported from one region to another.

It’s as if, in one year, the government has learned nothing at all. The fact that there aren’t enough beds in intensive care units to face this third wave is outright scandalous. In a highly populated area like the Paris region—home to 12 million people—the government hasn’t even created a high-capacity ward specifically dedicated to Covid on top of the existing hospitals to help absorb possible sickness peaks.

The other scandal is vaccination. A year ago, the whole world faced the unknown. There was no treatment or vaccine. So scientists worked hard. With messenger RNA technology, we now have vaccines that have even been unanimously approved by scientists for their efficacy, their adaptability to variants and the rarity of side effects. All countries are demanding and eagerly awaiting these liberating vaccines, but production is lagging behind.

Verifications have led several countries, including France, to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccinations. Prior to that, Astra- Zeneca was making the headlines because of its delivery delays. They had committed to delivering 120 million doses to the European Union in the first quarter of 2021. But, at best, they will only deliver 30 million—that’s four times less!

The labs that monopolize the patents are unable to keep up with the scheduled production rate. They haven’t built the necessary production lines or hired the workers to operate them. Sanofi—a French pharmaceutical company that made a profit of 12.3 billion euros in 2020—is about to bottle the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but it will do so by cutting jobs and increasing productivity.

The pharmaceutical trusts do not behave any differently from small-time crooks: with their vaccines, they have sold a lot of hot air. How did the European leaders react when it appeared that they had been cheated? By whining! “They’re making fun of us”, “they’re treating us badly”, some of them complained—but they have no intention of forcing big pharma to do anything.

All governments have imposed drastic constraints on their populations. In France, for a while, nursing homes were closed to visitors, and patients in palliative care were not allowed to see their loved ones. But no political leader is ready to hold the big trusts to account and force them either to make the necessary investments or to share their patents so that others can produce the vaccines.

In times of war, states have requisitioned and taken control of certain industries to put them to work for the war effort. While these requisitions temporarily dispossessed the bourgeois owners, they were always accompanied by substantial compensation. And yet in today’s war against the pandemic, this very basic measure isn’t even being considered!

Trusts hide behind commercial and industrial secrecy to avoid any form of control. Heads of state don’t even know how many vaccines will be delivered, or when, but they accept that, because that’s the normal functioning of capitalism, the system they so ardently defend.

Big capital does exactly as it pleases in other areas as well. The reason affordable housing isn’t available on a worker’s salary is because it doesn’t interest developers to provide it. If investments, research and innovation don’t take off, despite all the money that the state puts on the table, it’s because large groups are more interested in speculating on financial markets to make a quick profit.

To fight the pandemic effectively and to mass produce vaccines on a global scale, all existing production centers and planning would have to be used. But property rights and the appetite for profit of a handful of super-rich parasites stand in the way of what should be a collective production effort. It’s an unbelievable mess and it’s downright criminal because this vaccine shortage will result in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths around the world.

The bourgeoisie and its political servants have an interest in the perpetuation of this system, but the workers don’t. Since the government admits that it’s powerless, let’s call for the requisition of pharmaceutical labs and for them to be run under worker control!