The situation in the nations of the South is appalling. Countries like Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa, where the working people were already reeling from the unemployment and poverty, are now facing even more hardships, as the COVID19 rages. These four countries are the frontrunners in their sub-regions when it comes to COVID19 cases, with Brazil having more than 400,000 deaths, India having 230,000+ deaths, Indonesia with 47,000+ deaths, and South Africa with more than 50,000 deaths due to COVID.
These countries have seen their health care system collapse, as hospitals are bursting at the seams with the number of patients, many are unattended and expire without getting any access to proper health care. The official government figures lie on the conservative side, as the working people who are dying are not able to reach any health facility and therefore not in the government statistics. It is an economic and health crisis without precedence.
The COVID19 vaccine has been touted as the silver bullet to defeat the pandemic. Like how uneven the impact of the pandemic is between the North and South countries, the scenario is repeated in the access to vaccines.
Rich countries already have twice or even greater the weight of this silver compared to their population. Even with the World Health Organization COVAX facility, the supply for poor countries is a mere drop in the ocean. The rich countries have corralled 87% of the 700 million doses of available vaccines, while the poor countries a mere 0.2%, said the World Health Organization last April 2021.
The economic inequality before pandemic were already gross, and with the vaccine inequity, it has become gravely criminal. 12.3% of the world’s total death from COVID 19 came from Brazil, a country which only homes to the 2.7% percent of the global population. Despite the gravity of the situation, the country had only vaccinated with at least one dose a reached 15.77% of its total population. This has been the same case among African nations as the number of COVID 19 cases surge.
While the majority of the people of the world are submerged in the muck of unemployment, income loss and health problems, the gigantic pharmaceuticals have been making a killing out of the pandemic. Pfizer has made 3.5B USD in revenues for the first quarter of 2021, and has admitted the COVID19 vaccine is their biggest source of revenue. Pfizer vaccine partner BioNtech has reported a 11.8B USD revenue from the vaccine. Pfizer is predicting that it will generate 26B USD in revenue for 2021, while in 2020 it registered a 9.9B USD in profits.
Pricing for the Pfizer vaccine is uneven, with vaccine price per shot being sold in higher price in rich countries. Pfizer applied for emergency authorization of their vaccine in India but eventually took back the application when the India authorities required local clinical trial of the vaccine. Selling higher and more quantity to those willing to pay is price-gouging, and follows the logic of profiteering and nothing else. The development of the vaccine by the different pharmaceutical companies were funded by the peoples money. BioNtech received 445M USD from the German taxpayers, while Moderna got 438M USD from American taxpayers. Aside from this, the technology being used by the 2 corporations are from the National Institute of Health of the United States.
Government and international trade platforms, like the World Trade Organization (WTO), are enablers of the profiteering of the big pharmaceutical corporations. Under the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) agreement, no one can make the COVID19 vaccines unless they have the intellectual property rights. TRIPS warrants corporations to monopolize the patents not only on medical technologies but agricultural products as well. Whereas these products could have been supplied by multiple producers at cheaper rates.
Many countries are calling to waive TRIPS but Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies are fighting against waving TRIPS for the vaccine. Even before the pandemic, TRIPS had caused more detrimental effects to the people. TRIPS should be terminated along with liberal trade rules that undermines the governments capability to efficiently respond to pandemic and economic recovery. The African people have fought against HIV/AIDS vaccine control of the big pharmaceuticals 2 decades ago and now together with the rest of the people of the South must battle the Big Pharma companies again.
Governments should also be hold to account for colluding with Transnational Corporations in profiteering off the pandemic and for the deaths and misery of its people. Captured and in cahoots with the TNCs, many government in the South have endorsed the demand of the TNCs for sovereign guarantees through the indemnity clause, using public funds to bail-out the big pharmaceuticals if legal cases are filed against them.
While the corporations are fighting against any effort to reduce their profits, the working people are dying. We need to build solidarity among our organizations and communities during the pandemic. We must build mutual help groups and networks that can respond to the emergency needs of the people. We must mobilize our ranks, create plans and implement them to address the pandemic of hunger and sickness.
We will do this while making the corporations and their enablers accountable for their criminal activity during the pandemic. We must hold our governments to account, governments who continue to promote and practice their neo-liberal beliefs, failing to implement a proper pandemic response, leading to the detriment of the people. We should be demanding for governments that protect the health of the people and treat it as a public good, and fight against those who places profits over people.