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

Thousands Died—Because Their Lives Were Not Profitable

Nov 10, 2014

About ten years ago, medical researchers came up with a vaccine that stopped Ebola 100 per cent in monkeys, even in monkeys already infected with Ebola. But this promising vaccine, called VSV, was never produced for human use!

The reason? The pharmaceutical industry did not consider such a vaccine profitable enough–because the victims of Ebola were poor people in rural Africa!

What’s even more outrageous is that the research for VSV had actually been funded publicly, and patented, by the Canadian government. But Canada turned the results over to private interests, as is common in the industry. And the private interests–Iowa-based NewLink Genetics–decided not to develop it for human beings.

Now, after years into a terrible Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the U.N. World Health Organization and the U.S. government say they will provide the money (and of course the big profits) demanded by the big pharmaceutical companies to start testing VSV and other vaccines on people. They say that a human vaccine might be available for widespread use–by May of next year.

The official Ebola death count in West Africa is already 5,000. The real figure is certainly much higher, since there are not nearly enough doctors and nurses, nor hospital beds, in the three countries where Ebola has spread, and where people are literally dying on the streets. By next May, tens of thousands more people will certainly have contracted Ebola and many will have died from it.

In all likelihood, many of these thousands of lives could have been saved if VSV and other vaccines had been developed when scientists first worked on them. But those decisions–whether to produce the vaccines or not–were made by a few executives, who were completely oblivious to anything but their company’s profit.

Even health care under this murderous scourge called capitalism is deadly.