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The U.S. rulers and their government should be compelled to rapidly expand the production and distribution of enough vaccines to immunize billions of working people around the world against COVID-19. The “Intellectual property” rights should be abolished. The vaccines were paid for by US tax dollars, the formulas should be made freely available as Jonas Salk did with the polio vaccine in 1953.

Moderna, Pfizer and other for-profit pharmaceutical companies were granted gigantic handouts by Washington as they rushed to capture vaccine markets. Their ownership of vaccine patents has guaranteed their monopoly and blocked the urgent manufacture and distribution of medicines worldwide affordable or free.

Only a tiny fraction of vaccines have been provided to the least developed capitalist countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, often at exorbitant prices. Of the 200 governments that started vaccination programs before Oct. 25, the seven slowest have vaccinated only 1% of the population. Five of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. The other two are Haiti and war-ravaged Yemen. Only 3% of AFRICA IS VACCINATED.

Only a tiny fraction of vaccines have been provided to the least developed capitalist countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, often at exorbitant prices.

Moderna for example, received federal grants of $2.5 billion for everything from development to clinical trials. The U.S. government pre-ordered $1.5 billion of its shots, ensuring company owners a guaranteed market.

By concentrating its supplies almost exclusively in advanced capitalist countries and defending its patent monopoly against competitors, Moderna is reaping billions. It expects $20 billion in revenue this year, making its vaccine one of the most lucrative medical products in history.

Moderna and rival manufacturers like Pfizer are using their monopoly to charge premium rates to countries in the semicolonial world, where the cost of the drug is out of reach for millions. Moderna is selling a limited supply at a premium rate to less industrialized countries. It charged the governments of Botswana, Thailand and Colombia nearly double the U.S. price. The World health Organization has strongly denounced this “intellectual property’ gambit. To no avail as big pharma runs the show and buys off the politicians, as does the for-profit health industry.

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Dr. Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted that these companies are “behaving as if they have absolutely no responsibility beyond maximizing the return on investment.” In fact, like all capitalists, they act on their “responsibility” to advance their interests at the expense of working people.

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Our unions should focus on getting all our members vaccinated, exposing the reactionary nature of anti-science antivaxxers, cops, evangelicals. Mandates for health care workers, teachers, essential workers, food services, police and firefighters are part of us reaching “herd immunity” which must be 90% plus.

As a former teacher, I know that WE ALL HAD TO GET 10-12 VACCINATIONS BEFORE ENTERING PUBLIC SCHOOL. Teachers have to get TB tests before entering any classroom—so what is wrong with these mandates?

WHO officials said that only 15% of vaccinations promised for delivery to the semicolonial world had been sent. Africa, with 17% of the planet’s population, has less than 1% of the world’s vaccine manufacturing capacity.

How Cuba Vaccine effort is different

Cuba is the first Latin American country to have developed and produced not just one but three COVID vaccines. One is being exported to Vietnam and Venezuela while another is being manufactured in Iran.

There is no anti-vaccine movement in Cuba. People want the vaccine. They understand the science and have confidence in the Cuban government and Cuban bio-chemical institutions. Some 99% of Cuba’s population down to 2-year olds have received the first shot as of Oct. 14. Havana plans to have the entire population vaccinated by the end of the year. It is totally free.

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The delay in their vaccination effort was due to the US embargo of necessary raw materials, syringes and vials which the US blocked. The US embargo is responsible for the deaths of nearly 10,000 Cubans. Isn’t this reason enough to end the 60-year embargo and 243 sanctions imposed by Trump and maintained by Biden (breaking one of his many campaign promises to end the blockade).

Mark Friedman