Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and other pharmaceutical companies have come out as great heroes of the pandemic era. By using some of the most advanced technology at a record-breaking speed, these companies created the vaccines that could possibly put an end to the horrors of COVID-19. But despite the global nature and impact of this pandemic, these companies are hardly global heroes. These are the companies of the rich countries which can afford to pay for their services while the rest of the world battles is out for the vaccine crumbs.
In order for the vaccine to be successful at stopping the spread of COVID-19, it needs to be provided globally. This may be obvious to most people, except it seems to those who have the power to make sure this happens. So far, 90 percent of the 400 million vaccine doses that have been provided, have gone to wealthy nations. The United States government has made it clear that it cares very little about the rest of the world, by purchasing 453 million excess doses and refusing to share even the AstraZeneca vaccine which, as of March 23, hadn’t yet been approved for use in the U.S., even though it is in use other places.
Even if the rich countries don’t want to share their supplies, what about allowing and assisting other countries to begin their own production? Well, this also seems to be impossible for governments focused on protecting the wealth of the now most profitable pharmaceutical companies. It seems the Biden administration is more afraid of these companies losing some profits by sharing their secret life-saving formulas than of losing another millions of lives to the pandemic. The World Health Organization has attempted to address this issue by creating a technology pool where vaccine companies could share some of their techniques. So far, not one single vaccine company has signed up for it. Pfizer and Moderna executives are already discussing how to increase the price of the vaccine when the pandemic is more under control. Sharing the patents for these vaccines has never been a part of the conversation for these companies, and likely never will be.
We can argue these companies are unethical and inhuman, but we would be denying another more important fact. These are capitalist corporations who are just following the rules of a sick systemic game. The capitalist system that created this pandemic cannot be trusted to get us safely out of it. The only way to avoid more pandemics and millions more deaths would be to replace capitalism with a system that prioritizes life and not profits.