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

COVID-19 Hits Africa, Vaccine Shortage Persists

Jun 21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is raging in Africa. The number of new cases increased by 30% in one week.

All the while, the countries of Africa face a drastic shortage of vaccine doses. Though the continent, with 1.3 billion people, is home to 18% of the world’s population, its people have received only 2% of the vaccine doses administered globally to date!

This is not surprising given that Africa is home to many of the world’s poorest countries. Through much of the pandemic, African countries appeared to have escaped the worst of it. It’s hard to know for sure the extent of COVID’s spread, given the high cost of being tested. It costs $22 to $65 to be tested, which is out of reach for most of the working class, considering that 85% of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $5.50 per day. The cost of medical care for those contracting COVID-19 is even more out of reach for most Africans.

Politicians and the media in the imperialist countries admit “No one is safe unless we are all safe.” Yet until now, African countries have faced a severe shortage of vaccines while the wealthier countries have hoarded them. Governments of the imperialist countries have protected the patent rights of pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer that prevent the poorer countries from producing the vaccines on their own.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently made a big pronouncement that the U.S. would purchase 500 million doses to donate to 92 lower-income countries through the United Nations’ COVAX program. But even by Biden’s predictions, these will not be fully distributed until June of 2022 and Africa alone has 1.3 billion people! How many millions of people will catch the disease and die or be sickened for the rest of their lives before they can get a vaccine?

It would certainly be in the interests of even the capitalists to end this pandemic, including in the poorer countries. It interferes with the ordinary functioning of an interconnected worldwide economy. Yet the same system of profit prevents the politicians from making the new vaccine technology available to all who need it across the globe, and therefore, it remains true, no one is safe!