Welcome to Issue 56.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
As promised, here comes another of my many attempts to understand global capitalism, vaccine edition.
Let’s start with the players.
There are the vaccine companies, household names these days: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, so on. As you’ll see from the links, a 10-second search for “[corporation name]” + “scandal” yielded, as it literally always does, something. While the technologies these entities have developed are surely saving lives, corporations are designed to prioritize profit, and profit does not come from a magic black box, it comes from exploitation. (For another day: all wealth is stolen.)
The World Health Organization is the controversial global entity, mostly governments but lots of private shenanigans there as well; CEPI is a public-private partnership, as is Gavi, which also works on other global vaccination efforts; UNICEF is the part of the United Nations tasked with getting aid to children around the world.
Also, it’s worth noting that COVAX’s goal, which it is currently not meeting, was only ever to vaccinate 20% of the world’s population.
And of course there are governments, which are variably waiving/sharing vaccine patents…and then there is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
These guys…are everywhere. Champions of PR about public health investments, the Gateses (? how to pluralize with s?) are also horrible fiends of individualism, capitalism, and the idea that investment in technology is more valuable than deference to and respect for people most directly impacted by the problems that investment is supposed to address. Take his hot garbage climate book, which talks about how great carbon capture technology is, but not his investment in it or the fact that it’s an out for Big Oil…
But back to the vaccines.
I’m working my way through this hefty article: How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines.
So far, no surprises. On the eve of the global pandemic, in early 2020, public health experts and reps from around the world gathered, and the potential for a people’s vaccine seemed ripe. Bill Gates stepped in, pitched an ambitious plan to get vaccines out into the world, and then:
“actively sought to undermine all challenges to his authority and the [vaccine] Accelerator’s intellectual property–based charity agenda.”
In other words, Billy didn’t want to share. The article consulted James Love, someone close to Gates’ rise in the public health philanthropy world.
“Love entered the world of global public health policy around the same time Gates did, and for two decades has watched him scale its heights while reinforcing the system responsible for the very problems he claims to be trying to solve. The through-line for Gates has been his unwavering commitment to drug companies’ right to exclusive control over medical science and the markets for its products.”
That about says it, hm?
Some more recent updates include: the US will be exporting 60 million doses of (potentially contaminated) AstraZeneca vaccine, Biden’s throwing some money around, and whee! another corporation has committed to sell (how generous!!) 1+ billion doses of the vaccine by the end of…next year.
For context, the population of India is 1.36 billion people.
Meanwhile, an AstraZeneca rep published an opinion piece about how important it is to get vaccines to everyone.
And under pressure, the White House is considering that WTO waiver, which would make it, in so many words, a lot easier to decentralize and streamline vaccine production around the world.
There is a lot more here, of course, but the truth is more or less to be expected: governments are continuing to prioritize the health of the private players of public private partnerships, and the lives of people in wealthy Global North countries.
If you would like to support mutual aid amid the ongoing COVID/capitalism crisis in India, here’s a doc with ways to do so.
Here is a school of fish, who are, despite their frowns, still more willing to collaborate than humans in charge.