The new variant Omicron may be dangerous. It may not be. But, it may be. Scientists have warned of this kind of threat from Day One of the pandemic. The threat is here today because of nearly one whole year of vaccine technology hoarding by imperialist companies.
Why are there new variants? Because people world-wide are not getting vaccinated enough, or fast enough, or even in the right order to minimise the effects properly. Every scientist has predicted that this would happen. We hope this variant is not “the dangerous one”, but on this course – with vaccine hoarding and monopoly profits coming first – even if this variant turns out not to be a mortal danger, we will sure get to that mortal one day in the not-too-distant future, if we continue to horde vaccine technology and vaccines, themselves, in this way.
Why is Africa only 7 % fully vaccinated against Covid? The answer is simple. It is because of the persistent hoarding of vaccines and vaccine production technology by international monopoly capitalist companies in the imperialist countries. Imperialism, remember, is the protection of monopoly profits. It is not just “a big country”, or even just “a belligerent country”. The imperialists refuse to lift the ban on vaccine production so as to protect monopoly profits. They refuse to share the technology. They persist, even if this greed is an existential threat to humanity.
And instead, we now witness the imperialist countries punishing 10 Southern African countries. Why? If you can believe it, it’s because South African scientists were the first to identify the new variant Omicron, and to raise the alarm. The punishment being meted out is the selective closing of borders against these 10 countries, and these 10 countries only.
But the variant is already in Belgium, France (and its Reunion Island colony), Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Italy, UK, Israel, Netherlands, Austria and Denmark and counting and no-one knows where it began. So, why cut just these Southern African countries dead? Dr Fauci says Omicron is “probably” already spreading in the USA, where, we can add, sequencing is notoriously backward. So, instead we should be seeing a world-wide lockdown of travel for 10 days, not a selective ban on African countries.
We should also, meanwhile, be seeing immediate offers by the rich countries to support vaccination programs in Africa. We should, since October last year have seen vaccination production in Africa and in India and in Latin America, instead of the hoarding and the maintaining of monopoly secrets on how to make the vaccine. It is dangerous for the whole world. It is playing with fire. It is indeed “an outrage” as the Co-Chair of African union’s Vaccine Alliance, Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, said from Abuja yesterday, on the BBC. She said the South African scientists first picked up the variant in Botswana, where Moderna was due to have delivered 500,000 doses of vaccine, but had instead sold the doses to other countries that had jumped the queue. In addition she said that Moderna was charging Malawi $29 per dose, which is higher than they charged other countries. She called it “an outrage” and called on African leaders to step up and speak out.
Vaccine roll-out worldwide should have been as follows: right from the beginning, worldwide, vaccination of all health care workers and all people most fragile relative to Covid first. At the same time, production itself should have been rolled out everywhere on the basis of generic names of the products, and administered gradually to the rest of the world’s population. It is late now, but not too late to change course, though. Today, for example, China has committed itself to sending one billion (1,000,000,000) vaccine doses to Africa.
Nurses’ unions all over the world have right now got a petition online addressed to the Special Rapporteur on Health of the UN Human Rights Council calling for a suspension of the WTO patent bans on vaccine production. We call on people to sign it, and for all nursing trade unions in Mauritius to join in: https://covid19criminals.exposed/?mc_cid=a112255ecc&mc_eid=561b4b34c0
But, just look at the hideous truth:
Right now, as we publish this article, the World Trade Organization was, at long last, due to be discussing the lifting of these outrageous patent monopolies on vaccine science and technology. Capitalist patent monopolies on “ideas” are what make it illegal for other companies or governments to produce the life-saving vaccines. The world capitalist system relies heavily on guaranteeing this kind of hideous monopoly profit even on inventions that are life-saving, like vaccines. There is, however, precedent for lifting the monopoly ban, or granting a “waiver” of the ban. Patents were lifted, for example, in the case of HIV/Aids medicines when people in South Africa organized a popular uprising against the murderous WTO monopoly laws. After that, countries like India, Brazil and South Africa began producing generic drugs i.e. based on the scientific formula, and treating the illness, thus taming that pandemic.
Yesterday, the WTO was due to have finally discussed the waiver of these draconian profit-oriented patent monopoly laws on Covid vaccines. A resolution had been filed formally by India and South Africa as early as in October last year. Over a year ago. The WTO has just stalled talks on purpose. Talk about delaying tactics! Talk about fiddling as Rome burns! But the WTO has once again yesterday, Monday, postponed any discussion, let alone action. It is truly criminal greed.
The countries opposing lifting the monopoly protection are the European union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, and Singapore. We call on people in these countries to rise up against their Governments which are causing the pandemic to be prolonged. Importantly, in the USA, there was enough popular mobilization during the electoral campaign that the Biden administration has stopped publicly opposing the waiver. The USA’s administration, however, should have enough political clout, if it wanted to, to force the issue on to the WTO agenda.
In Mauritius, as early as 7 April this year LALIT signed in a common declaration with some of the country’s biggest and/or most active people’s organizations: Confederation of General Trade unions (CGTU), the Government Services Employees Association (GSEA), the Confédération des Travailleurs des Secteurs Public et Privé (CTSPP), the Federation of Parastatal Bodies & Other unions (FPBOU), the Nursing Association, the Muvman Liberasyon Fam, the Centre Idrice Goomany, the Consumer Advocacy Platform (CAP):
“We call on the Government to support, and actively promote, the initiative of the Indian and South African Governments at the World Trade Organization from October 2020 to get a ban on “patents” for Covid vaccines”. And we argued meticulously for this (see our news section on this date on our site www.lalitmauritius.org).
But, curiously no private radio, no newspaper, no other opposition party picked up on the demand and run a sustained campaign on it. They all pretended that these NINE organizations, some of them very big, just had not said anything at all. The Government, while voting for the India-South-Africa resolution, has done no mobilizing either.
Since we, nine mainstream people’s organizations, took that stand, during the intervening seven months, who else in Mauritius has stood up and mobilized for this? Who? Is there a daily over-line, for example, reading “End WTO Ban on Vaccine Production!”
In Africa, until now, only 7% of people are fully vaccinated.
And now, this obstinacy in the WTO? And now, this punishment of 10 Southern African countries because of a new variant which is because of the greed of the big rich private companies?
In fact, a month earlier than the Common Declaration, on 13 March 2021, as an organization, we already took a stand and began campaigning, “In LALIT, talking of vaccines, we call on the Mauritian Government, for Independence yesterday, to give him [Mauritian WTO Representative] firm instructions to not just support the India and South Africa-led initiative at the WTO to suspend patents on coronavirus vaccines to allow equitable distribution all over the world, but [for UN representative Jugdish Koonjal to be instructed] to work actively at getting all countries in the African union to support it.”
Lindsey Collen for LALIT