The highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 seems to be responsible for the current wave of COVID-19 infections and is fast becoming the dominant strain in the world. The variant is responsible for many COVID infections in fully vaccinated individuals. This is due to a process known as ‘vaccine escape’: a case where a virus has mutated to evade the antibodies derived from vaccination. Although vaccinated people can become infected, the vaccine provides protection from severe symptoms that could lead to hospitalization or death. This observation was initially outlined in a study of Indian healthcare workers. The Delta variant seems to cause much higher viral loads in vaccinated people. The high viral load and limited symptoms could cause the vaccinated yet infected person to be even more infectious to others. Healthcare experts thought that if people were vaccinated this would reduce the amount of virus circulating and therefore slow down the pandemic, and this is generally true. However, the vaccination cannot protect the vulnerable, unvaccinated populations when it comes to the Delta variant due to the variant’s ability to escape antibodies derived from vaccination.
The capitalist class doesn’t understand that protecting all is protecting self during a pandemic. The variants that we see today were preventable. They occur because there has been no global policy at the outset of the outbreak. Without a global policy, with some countries hoarding vaccine and caring only for their own, while in others the virus spreads unchecked, with leadership that neither has vaccines nor imposes mask-wearing, shelter-in place-measures, or bans on large gatherings, we see the rise of the variants of the virus such as Delta.
Instead of wealthier countries figuring out how to vaccinate as many people as possible, protecting the lives of all, which would’ve ended the pandemic, decisions were based on protecting investments, getting businesses opened as soon as possible and making profit off the pandemic. In this capitalist driven system, intellectual property rights of the pharmaceutical companies superseded the need to produce vaccines as quickly and in as great a quantity as possible and therefore variants have emerged, and will likely continue to do so.
The current vaccines provide some protection from the current Delta variant, but eventually a variant will arise which will no longer be captured by the antibodies derived from the original vaccine. We will then need to re-vaccinate with a different vaccine altogether. To the vaccine developer, this situation creates a never-ending market for COVID vaccine while ignoring the disease and death needed to create this profitable opportunity.
In a reasonable world, a socialist one, where life rather than profit is a concern, we would have a World Health Organization that makes plans to work globally to protect everyone’s health in the face of pandemics. We would have quarantined, used shelter in place and allowed the virus to run out of hosts globally in unison. We wouldn’t have let this virus run amok and mutate into more infectious variants. The pandemic would have ended in 2020, and yet here we are in 2021, wondering what is coming next.