Dozens of protesters took to the streets of New York City, chanting “Pfizer’s Greed Kills,” as Pfizer and the German government refused to share COVID-19 vaccine formulas with the Global South. Pfizer has made billions in profits while the global pandemic death toll has surpassed 4 million people.
Vaccine apartheid has built a giant variant factory that threatens us all — and it’s caused by private ownership of pharmaceutical production and the indifference of Western governments. We need a movement demanding an end to it.
The inexorable future toward which vaccine capitalism is taking us is a Covid endemic: a future where Covid is a treatable disease for the upper middle classes and a continuous deadly infectious disease with a steady level of fatalities among the poor.
If nothing else, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an incredibly instructive case study in what the neoliberal dogma that now governs our waking lives really means when stripped of artifice or pretense. As things stand, just a handful of profit-driven private companies currently control the knowledge and expertise required to produce vaccines — with people in many poorer countries not expected to be vaccinated until at least 2024. It didn’t have to be this way, of course.Enabled by a monopolistic global intellectual property (IP) regime and with a tip of the hat to billionaire Bill Gates, Big Pharma and its political allies have largely succeeded in controlling and defining the narrative during the early vaccine rollout — transforming the prospective solution to a global crisis into yet another occasion for narrow corporate profit, in this case at the expense of public health and a speedy end to the pandemic.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has welcomed the statement of the US government of 5th May announcing their support for a relaxation in the norms of the agreement on TRIPS, to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries. Delhi is “hopeful that with a consensus based approach, the waiver can be approved quickly at the WTO.” But is the optimism warranted? More
The COVID-19 Global Access (COVAX) initiative is being touted as a key step toward vaccine equality. But many of COVAX’s donors and architects are deeply enmeshed in the global intellectual property regime at the heart of vaccine apartheid.
With COVID-19 still traveling and mutating, mass vaccination is an urgent and international priority. But dealing with vaccine skepticism will involve more than just dismissing people’s doubt as irrational. It will require genuine engagement with the doubt and uncertainty that is also a fundamental principle of the scientific method.