Across the world, the pandemic rages on. Vast swathes of the global population remain unvaccinated, yet imperialist nations are throwing doses away. Capitalism stands in the way of effectively fighting the virus. We need planning, not profit.
COVID-19 vaccines offer a way out of the ongoing global pandemic. But rampant wastage and nationalist hoarding threatens the fight against new variants. Capitalism is incapable of ensuring the safety of workers worldwide.
Recent news revealed that the UK government threw away 600,000 COVID vaccines earlier this year.
When the decision was made in May 2021 to no longer use AstraZeneca vaccines for younger people, these batches still had four months left before their expiration date.
But instead of exporting excess doses to poorer nations, the British ruling class left these to expire and threw them away.
Waste and hypocrisy
This is part of a trend of imperialist nations wasting vaccines. Global poverty charity Oxfam predicts that 100 million doses will go unused and expire by the end of this year, mostly in G7 countries.
In one revealing case, Dutch doctors were prevented from sending surplus vaccines to countries in need, due to strict regulations. Shockingly, no exemptions were permitted by the Dutch government.
Vaccination rates are dangerously low in the Global South. Only 6% of the population of the African continent are vaccinated – mostly the richer layers of society. In Haiti, only 0.4% of the population are fully vaccinated.
In terms of targets, less than 10% of African nations are expected to meet the World Health Organisation goal of vaccinating 40% of people by the end of this year. At current rates, large swathes of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are not predicted to be fully covered until late 2022 / early 2023.
International scientific guidelines state that one of the key ways to prevent the emergence of new variants is through COVID-19 vaccines. Yet, the UK is behind on its target of providing 100 million doses to poorer countries by mid-2022.
These problems are further exacerbated by a global shortage of single-use syringes, which particularly impacts poorer nations. Wealthy imperialist nations have no such issue with syringe shortages.
The 2.2 billion shortfall in syringes is the result of a perfect storm of capitalist crises: increased demand; supply chain disruptions; an erratic supply of donations; and bans on syringe exports.
Capitalism’s defenders blame the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic for supply chain disruptions. In reality, this breakdown is the result of the anarchy of the market, with extensive globalisation and ‘just-in-time’ production creating fragilities and vulnerabilities, as companies compete for greater profits.
In poorer nations, the impact of imperialist exploitation and capitalist corruption severely undermines healthcare systems. Even if the vaccines were to be delivered at an acceptable pace, there would need to be massive investment in community healthcare projects to ensure adequate planning and distribution.
Currently, there is a significant shortage of medical workers and funding in poorer nations. While Europe has an average of 3.9 doctors and 9.8 nurses per 1000 population, sub-Saharan Africa only has 0.2 doctors and 1.0 nurses. Similarly, European nations spend six times as much on healthcare per capita compared to Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is therefore critical that COVID vaccination drives are coupled with a massive boost in funding and recruitment for the healthcare sector. This can only be achieved with the expropriation of the big banks and major monopolies, which hoard the wealth of the world’s workers.
Collaboration, not competition
Imperialist blocs like the European Union preach unity and collaboration during times of economic upswing. But when capitalist crisis looms, each nation’s ruling class cares only for their own wallet.
Last year, for example, imperialist nations opposed a COVID vaccine patent waiver to allow global access to the necessary information to produce vaccines. This move was rightly denounced by charities such as Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
The justification given by the capitalists for this scandal is that ‘innovation’ is supposedly driven by competition and the profit-motive. Waving intellectual property rights, they say, would therefore hold Big Pharma back from developing future drugs and medicines.
But this argument is undermined by the massive state funding provided for the research into the COVID vaccines.
The way forward is clear. To fight the virus, we need planning, not profit.
We need a revolution
Whether it’s supermarkets throwing away fresh food amidst hunger; or mass homelessness existing alongside unoccupied properties used as speculative assets: capitalism’s contradictions are the cause of the most horrendous inefficiency and waste.
Despite having cutting-edge technology and highly developed means of production at our fingertips, the profit system simply cannot meet the needs of workers.
These inefficiencies are not abstract; they have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of millions and billions of ordinary people worldwide.
Every COVID death or illness that could have been prevented by an otherwise-wasted vaccine is blood on the hands of the global capitalist class.
To end this chaos and barbarism, we need a revolution.
Freed from the shackles of profit and competition, a democratically-planned economy – based on public ownership and workers’ control – would allow COVID vaccines to be distributed fairly, on the basis of global needs. Instead of imperialist hoarding, there would socialist internationalism.
By taking Big Pharma companies out of private hands, we could ensure that research is collaborative, not competitive.
And by expropriating the billionaires, funding and investment could be provided to massively ramp up the production of vaccines and improve healthcare systems across the world.
- Nationalise the pharmaceutical industry under workers’ control!
- Expropriate the billionaires to fund research and healthcare!
- For socialist planning to provide vaccines for all!