It has been over a year since the governments of South Africa and India first proposed that the World Trade Organization waive its restrictive patent monopoly rules and instead share lifesaving Covid-19 vaccine and treatment technology for the good of humanity. Since that time, more than four million people have died from the virus. Countless more have suffered.
In our February statement “Put people’s lives before pharma profits,” the DSA International Committee warned of the deadly cost of a global economic system designed to put corporate interests before human lives—to extract profit from the suffering of the world’s many—and called for fellow socialists living in the imperial core to resist and fight to dismantle vaccine apartheid. This task remains as urgent as ever.
DSA IC supports a waiver on ‘WTO TRIPS’ rules to promote global access to medical products for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. … Initiated in 1995, the WTO TRIPS agreement undermines sovereign control over intellectual property law and extends corporate-friendly patent rules around the globe. Such stringent intellectual property rules obstruct the sovereign development paths of Global South nations and impede the production of public goods such as medicines and green technologies that should not be subject to the whims of the profit motive.—From “Put people’s lives before pharma profits,” DSA IC statement on waiving global patent laws, February 13, 2021
Since our statement, the world has been ravaged by ever more contagious and deadly Covid-19 variants, including delta and omicron. Scientists have warned since the pandemic began that until everyone in the world has affordable access to effective vaccines, the virus would have time to mutate to more dangerous forms and spread worldwide. This prediction is coming true before our eyes. Omicron is tearing through our communities—and the resultant deaths can be laid firmly at the feet of empire.
Although President Biden has announced his support for waiving patent monopolies to enable all countries with the technical capacity to mass produce vaccines—the result of organized pressure from a global grassroots movement, of which DSA was a part—the United States has fallen far short of what is needed to truly dismantle vaccine apartheid. The United States has failed to mandate much-needed technology transfer and drastically underinvested in global production. And while Germany, the UK and a handful of other countries have continued to formally block the lifesaving TRIPS waiver, the US has not endorsed the specific waiver proposal made by India and South Africa, has failed to bring adequate diplomatic pressure against holdouts and has even obstructed negotiations—all while the virus has continued to mutate and spread.
Millions of human lives are at risk from our policy of vaccine extortion—across the entire world. As deadly new variants reveal, what goes around comes around. Not only elementary human decency, but the interest of people in the United States demands that vaccine apartheid be ended NOW.