As 2020 comes to an end—a year that many would like to forget—sadly, despite the world pandemic, there is no good will from global capitalism towards the peoples of the global south in their battle against covid-19.
The TRIPS Council of the World Trade Organization, which deals with intellectual property rights, debated a proposal tabled by India and South Africa, supported by Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Kenya, for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to provide access to high-quality, safe, effective and affordable vaccines and medicines for the prevention, containment and treatment of covid-19 in poorer countries. In a global pandemic, where every country is equally affected, a global solution is necessary.
The proposal was rejected by the richest countries on the planet. The first to reject it was our next-door neighbour, Britain, followed by the European Union, United States of America, Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the American puppet Brazil.
This decision is barbaric in the extreme. It will lead to the death of hundreds of thousands if not millions of the poorest people in the world. This is all done to feed the insatiable appetite of global pharmaceutical companies, forever increasing profits. Nothing must stand in the way of profiteering and the accumulation of wealth by the wealthiest, no matter what damage is done in the process to humanity or the environment.
The majority of the vaccines have been developed by a massive investment of public funds in several countries. Big Pharma should not be allowed to hijack them: they should be produced globally for the benefit of humanity, not controlled and distributed by transnational corporations.
Who has financed the covid vaccines?
A system that refuses permission to the poorest people of the world to have vaccines to stop the spread of a deadly virus is a barbaric system. If the world is at war against this virus, then this is a war crime, against the poorest and most vulnerable in the battle.
As a result, billions of poor people are unlikely to be vaccinated; rich countries have already bought up 53 per cent of the most promising vaccines. They have bought enough doses to vaccinate their populations nearly three times over, while poor countries don’t even have enough to reach health workers and people most at risk. Nine out of ten people in seventy low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated by next year.
Canada has bought more doses per head than any other country—enough to vaccinate each Canadian five times over. Supplies of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine will almost all go to rich countries: 96 per cent of doses have been bought by the West.
In contrast, the inventors of insulin and the polio vaccine did not patent them; they chose not to, in the interests of humanity. This has had a profound effect on world health. Cuba, despite limited resources, has an incredible health service, which also sends doctors and medical teams all over the world in response to need.
The aim of the pharmaceutical industry is to create new customers, not to cure disease.
Covid-19 is a stress test on political and economic systems globally. Capitalism has failed that test abysmally and has been shown to be morally bankrupt. The world’s environment has already reached a tipping-point as a result of capitalism. The health pandemic has exposed the grotesque nature of the capitalist system. As Fidel Castro put it, “capitalism has neither the capacity, nor the morality, nor the ethics to solve the problems of poverty.”
We can save humanity or capitalism. We cannot save both.