The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 112 million people and caused the deaths of 2.5 million, according to official numbers. It is estimated that the actual cases and deaths may be several times more. The pandemic made it clear that the capitalist system, even in the most advanced and wealthy countries, was in a crisis of unusual magnitude and that one of its manifestations was years of disinvestment and cuts in health, from the abandonment of lines of research that could have advanced knowledge about the coronavirus, to lack of personnel and hospital infrastructure in critical sectors. In turn, the pandemic precipitated and aggravated a deep economic and social crisis that had been brewing from before and is shaping up to be the most important in the history of world capitalism in all its centuries of existence, with paralysis of economies, transportation, millions of workers losing their jobs, companies going bankrupt, and no recovery in sight. There is a new spike in inequality and an unprecedented increase in extreme poverty on a global scale. The longer the pandemic continues, the more the world’s workers and poor will suffer. The reason the pandemic continues to develop strongly is that the capitalist system privileges profits over the health and lives of millions, going so far as to hamper the mass vaccination that is needed to stop the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. For months now there have been over ten vaccines developed around the world with strong chances of success, and 4 or 5 of them already have passed clinical studies that prove their efficacy. However, the new year did not come with news of massive and speedy vaccinations, but of new strains, more lockdowns and problems, inequalities and unforeseen delays in the production, distribution and application of the vaccine.
2. In the first place, the richest countries have hoarded a significant share of the vaccines. The United States and the United Kingdom have bought enough doses for double or triple their population, and Canada leads the ranking with enough doses to vaccinate their population five times over. According to Oxfam, “all doses of Moderna and 96 percent of those of Pfizer/BioNTech have been purchased by rich countries,” and although Oxford/AstraZenca has committed to directing 64 percent of its doses to “developing” countries, most of its agreements are being signed with large “developing” countries like China and India. Except for a few countries that were able to buy small quantities of the Russian Sputnik V or others, the rest of the world is waiting to share the pool of vaccines from the WHO COVAX program, which could take years to reach the poorest countries.
3. Beyond these inequalities, overall vaccine production will only reach a small proportion of the world’s population in 2021. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 10% of humanity will be vaccinated by the end of the year. What is unusual is that there is more than sufficient installed capacity to mass produce vaccines for rapid distribution and application. But the pharmaceutical companies that own their patents reserve their exclusive “right” to produce and distribute their product to ensure the highest possible profit, despite lacking the capacity to provide the necessary vaccines in a timely manner.
4. Several of the richest countries in the world are also encountering significant difficulties. In recent weeks, the sluggish pace of vaccine production and therefore the impossibility of mass vaccination according to the expectations that had been generated, has generated a very important crisis, especially in the European Union where Germany, the leading and richest country in the region, cannot explain to its people how slowly they are getting vaccinated, compared to Brexit England with almost 15% of its population vaccinated. The crisis reached such an extent that an urgent summit was called to address this issue, where they even talked about the possibility of expropriation of patents or the compulsory granting of licenses for vaccines.
5. The International Socialist League has always maintained that health is an inalienable right, superior to any private profit. Therefore, for us, medical knowledge, its advances, its achievements in therapeutic, prevention or diagnostic methods, must be the intellectual property of humanity and cannot be protected by any patent or any other mechanism that assures any sector extraordinary profits and exclusive production. And we extend this to all kinds of diseases from cancer to AIDS, from Malaria to cardiovascular disease and now COVID. We are against the exploitation of health and disease as a capitalist business.
6. In the case of the Coronavirus pandemic, the elimination of all kinds of patents and profit is more than justified. First, because of the magnitude and scope of this pandemic that puts the health, lives and economic subsistence of billions of people worldwide at risk. Second, because it is false that companies have risked capital and invested years of research, as they claim, to ensure exclusivity. It is known to all that it was the States that contributed the money for its development in advance, and the public universities that contributed the knowledge.
7. The coveting of vaccine patents amid a global pandemic that is killing millions of people, to the point that a vaccination process that could be solved in months may stretch out over years, reveals the worst face of the capitalist system. That is why we are not only in favor of the annulment of patents, but we go further and say that we must immediately lift all restrictions on access to medical knowledge regarding prevention (vaccines), and treatment (whether curative or of support) forming a large worldwide collaborative database of advances, knowledge and experience to accelerate the cure of Covid-19.
8. Along with this, we demand a global productive reconversion that guarantees the production and distribution to all countries around the world of the necessary protection equipment for patient care. We maintain that the unification and nationalization under the control of workers and users of all existing health subsystems is necessary to guarantee equal care for the sick. Only with measures of this type can this pandemic be controlled and ended. There is no justification based on capital gain that can take precedence over the right to health of the world’s population.
9. As we continue our campaign for the creation of single state public health systems, it is imperative today to launch a global campaign for the immediate annulment of Covid-19 vaccine patents and the public production, distribution and application of vaccines throughout the world.
February 21, 2021