Vaccine champion? Or dog in the manger?

24 March 2021

While more than 10 million vaccine doses have been exported from the EU to Britain, none has gone the other way. After the EU said it might restrict export of vaccines last week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab seized the moral high-ground, expressing his "surprise", and saying it’d be "wrong to curtail or interfere with lawfully-contracted supply".

    Never mind that Britain has hoarded 400m vaccine doses - enough to vaccinate the adult population four times over! Johnson added that "we" in Britain "don't believe in blockades". But it seems he doesn't believe in sharing either. Because there is no suggestion of that: the hoard of vaccines will remain in British fridges until the whole population has been vaccinated... yes, and no matter that, as Johnson admits, the 3rd Covid wave, (due to the British variant) is beginning to engulf Europe and will inevitably “wash back onto British shores”...

    They all sanctimoniously mouth that nobody will be safe until everyone is safe. But Britain, unlike even the vaccine-poor EU didn't come forward with vaccines for poor countries. Ex-colonies, like war-torn Yemen, haven’t received one dose of vaccine, not even for medical staff. Neither has Sierra Leone.

    It turns out that the WHO’s Covax scheme, meant to supply vaccines "equitably" to poor countries, may placate public opinion, but has no actual backing. The truth is that while scientists collaborate, capitalists don't. They compete. And will fight to the death for the biggest share of the market. Or to the death of several million elderly and poor people on this planet from Covid. Petty, moneyed, self-interest comes first.

    In times of war, governments requisitioned industry to work for the war effort under state control. In today’s "war" against SARS-CoV-2, this isn't done. Yet the only way to get around the chaos in vaccine supply would be to requisition the whole vaccine industry, centralise and co-ordinate its manufacture and distribution and put lives before profits. This solution may sound far-fetched - but it's the only one. And since it will first require the overthrow of greed, the working class will have to get ready to apply it. Nobody else can, nor will.