The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Global Inequality Includes Vaccine Access

Jan 4, 2021

The first doses of the vaccines for COVID-19 are now being produced—but the drug companies say that they lack manufacturing facilities to produce the vaccines in sufficient quantities to supply people across the whole world.

It all comes down to money, and profits. The companies making the vaccines only produce what they know they can sell at a high price. These companies were guaranteed billions in profit up front by the governments of the wealthier countries like the U.S., Britain and the European Union—so that’s where they’re sending those doses.

Some of the actual production of the vaccine by the pharmaceutical companies is being done in poorer countries, like India and South Africa. But the vaccines produced there will be shipped to other countries where it can be sold for a bigger profit. The workers actually producing the vaccine will not get access to it anytime soon.

To try to address that, a group of countries led by India and South Africa went to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and proposed that the WTO waive patent protections so that poorer countries could manufacture affordable versions of the vaccine for their own populations.

That proposal to the WTO was shot down and denied by the United States, Britain and the European Union. Why? Because the governments of these countries refused to do something that would reduce the profits of the big pharmaceutical companies.

Global capacity and production COULD be ramped up so that everyone could receive the vaccines that we all need, around the world. But the capitalist system and the governments that protect it put the profits of a few billionaire owners before the lives of billions of people across the world.