On 18 January, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of “catastrophic moral failure” on Covid vaccines.
“It’s not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries… Right now, we must work together as one global family to prioritise those most at risk of severe diseases and death, in all countries”.
The labour movement should demand emergency public ownership of Big Pharma’s factories, and the speedy wartime-fashion expansion of production lines to get vaccines out across the world.
For now, poorer countries mostly have lower Covid tolls than rich ones, maybe because their populations are younger, maybe because the frail people killed by Covid in rich countries would not have survived those other frailties in poorer countries. The USA cumulatively shows 1200 Covid deaths per million population, Europe and South America both about 900, India about 100, Asia overall about 80, Africa 60.
But the ratios are not fixed. Germany and the Czech Republic had relatively low tolls in early 2020, and have high tolls now. Since early December South Africa’s proportional toll has risen from one-sixth of Europe’s average to 36% above.
Vaccine nationalism is also short-sighted. Remote islands or countries with ultra-policed borders can keep low virus levels whatever happens in the rest of the world. Most countries can’t.
The new lockdowns — clumsy, costly, and even botched though they be — are “working”. The 7-day moving average of infections in Britain has been declining since 1 January. But, in Britain and elsewhere, improvement in hospitalisation rates and deaths will only come later.
Solidarity campaigns for social measures to make the covid-distancing restrictions effective and reduce their social costs:
• Full isolation pay for all; publicly-provided quarantine accommodation
• Revised risk assessments, under workers’ control, for all workplaces, in light of the greater infectiousness of new virus variants
• Bring social care into the public sector.