Aug 2, 2021
The following editorial appeared in the SPARK workplace newsletters during the week of July 26, 2021.
“It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks ... who are letting us down.” So said Governor Kay Ivey, when asked why so many people in Alabama were coming down with Covid.
Biden’s Covid co-ordinator, Jeff Zients, repeated the same idea: “We have enough vaccine. Now it’s up to each and every single American to do their own part.” Rochelle Walensky, Biden’s head of the CDC, added her voice to the refrain: “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
It’s true, most new cases of Covid are concentrated in states where fewer people are vaccinated. Within states, it’s also true: counties with lower vaccination rates have higher infection rates, followed by hospitalizations and death.
The vaccines that have been developed are powerful weapons for controlling this pandemic. And the U.S. has more than enough vaccine to inoculate its whole population several times over.
Of course, it’s an illusion that any country can wall itself off from the world. The “Delta variant”—more contagious and more virulent—came from areas with less vaccine. So long as the vaccines are controlled by profit-making enterprises in this country and Europe, the whole world, including the U.S. is left at risk.
But this country, with all its wealth, with more than enough supply, hasn’t even been able to fully vaccinate more than half its population.
Politicians berate the unvaccinated to cover their own responsibility in this crisis. But there is a reality their blame-shifting can’t hide: something is seriously wrong in this system which was able to produce the means to control the pandemic, but was unable to put those means to use.
Why are so many people left unvaccinated? There were barriers, barriers created by the way the wage-system of capitalism works. Most people who were caught in those essential jobs—in food stores, gas stations, Amazon warehouses, delivery services—had low wages and no paid-time off. Taking a day off for the shot, another couple days off in case there are side effects, then repeating the whole thing for the second shot took money they needed just for their family to survive. If they weren’t working, they had to deal with childcare, given that schools and childcare facilities were closed. Vaccination facilities were often set up in places requiring a car to get to them; appointments required internet access to set them up. Tens of millions of people don’t have either. In this medical system built around the profit motive, millions of people have no regular doctor, no one who could answer their legitimate concerns.
Put all of this together, it comes as no surprise that the people with the lowest incomes had the lowest rate of vaccination. This follows on everything else that has happened in the pandemic. Deaths from Covid, from the beginning, have been concentrated in the poorest parts of the population.
In capitalist society, everything revolves around class.
It’s true that some politicians, for their own election purposes, spread rumors about the disease and the vaccines, advised people not to get a shot—while secretly getting one themselves. What kind of system would depend on a political apparatus cynically ready to sacrifice the lives of people?
Finally, what does it tell us about a system whose politicians berate the unvaccinated instead of searching for ways to overcome the problem?
This capitalist system long ago outlived its potential for making progress for ever larger parts of the population. A system that can produce vaccines, but not put them to full use, is a system that no longer has a reason to exist.
The system working people will build, when once again the working class mobilizes its full forces, will base itself on what has already been developed, but use it to serve the population.