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

Emergent Vaccine:
Corporations First, Health Last

Apr 12, 2021

Emergent, a manufacturer of vaccines, must destroy 15 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine. It mixed up the ingredients from an Astra-Zeneca vaccine with one from Johnson & Johnson. Now Johnson & Johnson is taking over Emergent’s Baltimore, Maryland manufacturing site.

It is not the first time Emergent has been in trouble over quality control. A review of Emergent last year noted quality control problems, problems the company was given 163 million dollars from the federal government to fix. The company has had other citations for contamination and mold.

Why is one pharmaceutical manufacturer important? Because neither the United States nor the rest of the world has enough manufacturers of vaccines to produce what the world’s population needs. It was also true of the flu pandemic of 2009 and Zika and Ebola. The world’s businesses do not particularly want to make vaccines, because the profit on them is less than profits made on many other medications, from which pharmaceutical companies make not only millions of dollars, but billions.

Emergent’s years of profits came from another vaccine, one for anthrax. But anthrax has not harmed anyone since the 2001 attack in the U.S. that killed five people. That hasn’t stopped Emergent from reaping millions off of government contracts to make the vaccine: for the past 20 years, Emergent made its money by manufacturing anthrax vaccine for the U.S. Defense Department and for the Strategic National Stockpile. The U.S. didn’t have up-to-date or sufficient personal protective equipment to help stop the spread of Covid-19, but they sure helped Emergent execs and stockholders.

Recently, the CEO of Emergent had a conference call with investors, referring to the billion and a half dollars Emergent has received for coronavirus vaccine work. He described 2020 as “wildly successful.”

In profits, yes. In saving human lives—absolutely not.