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

Poorer Countries Denied Access to COVID Vaccines

Aug 2, 2021

Politicians in the wealthier countries are busy imposing vaccine mandates and blaming the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the unvaccinated. These same politicians carry out policies that prevent billions of people in the poorer countries from receiving the vaccines, which in turn endangers us all.

Vaccinating 70% of the world’s population against the virus will require about 11 billion doses of the vaccines. So far, just over 3 billion doses have been administered, 80% of which have been in the wealthier countries. In the poorer countries, only about 1% of people have received even one dose. Countries like Haiti and almost all the countries of Africa have the lowest rates as of now, and many of them are experiencing massive COVID outbreaks.

Politicians in the wealthier countries made news by “pledging” to give doses of the vaccine to the poorer countries. The U.S. pledged less than 600 million, Britain 100 million, France, Germany and Japan a total of 90 million and China about 30 million. That comes to less than 1/8 of what is needed to reach the 70% goal, and these, as of now, are only pledges. All this, while the U.S. is sitting on three times the number of doses it needs to fully vaccinate its entire population.

The failure by the politicians of the wealthier countries to provide vaccines to the poor ones is not simply due to oversight. They carry out the exact policies demanded by the pharmaceutical companies and their wealthy owners to protect their profits.

These pharmaceutical companies used technology developed over years, much of it by companies in the underdeveloped countries, and only jumped into producing the vaccines when they received billions of dollars from the U.S. and British governments for advance orders. Since then they’ve received more than 10 billion dollars more from governments and non-profit organizations for further vaccine development.

In May, President Biden agreed to waive patent rights on the vaccines, in reaction to the other countries politicians anger at Trump’s “America First” policy. Biden’s policy granted only very narrow rights, however, so it will have very little meaningful actual effect on access to COVID vaccines for the people in the poorer countries.

Some of the poorer countries actually have the capacity to manufacture drugs. What they don’t have is the ability to pay for the materials needed to produce the vaccines, nor the ability to use the current crop of vaccines that require long-term cold storage to get the vaccines in people’s arms.

Finally, the ruling stratum of the upper class have no intention of investing their money in anything that doesn’t guarantee a return on investment. That would require a diversion from business and profit as usual. This will not be the first time they let poor people die.

They’re not even overly concerned about people in their own countries dying. Members of the wealthy class they serve have already been vaccinated, and will likely even receive third doses before most of those in the poorer countries receive even one.

People in the wealthier countries can’t wall themselves off from the rest of the world. When the pandemic is allowed to run rampant in poorer countries, it means new variants eventually develop. Three of the four variants common in the U.S. initially arose in poorer countries—South Africa, Brazil and India, where the current most common one, the Delta variant, was first seen.

The kind of chaos we’re seeing as a result is what capitalism at this stage has to offer. If we want a different result, we need to replace the system and build a society that puts the interests of humanity first.