By Joe Lombardo
So now we learn that there is a new variant of the virus called Omicron. This, they say, may be more transmittable and may be resistant to the vaccines that have been developed. This, of course, was predictable. They hoarded the vaccines for the rich countries, which meant the virus was allowed to run rampant in the poor countries. This meant that the virus was given a chance to mutate and eventually become more deadly.
Although the US vaccines were developed with a lot of public money – our tax dollars – the patents were given to the pharmaceutical companies who made billions in profits from them. The only way our capitalist system saw to get the vaccines out to the poorer countries was for the government to buy doses of the vaccines to distribute them, making these companies richer. The same is true in others of the advanced capitalist countries.
Under capitalism, the market drives everything, human needs are secondary to private profit. Therefore, only a small portion of the poorer countries got vaccinated and of course the US and its Western allies denied all medicine and vaccines to countries it sanctions like Venezuela, Iran, and others. Many urged the rich countries to make the formulas for the vaccines public so all countries could make their own. But this was not done because it would have cut across the profits of the pharmaceutical companies. So, the virus was allowed to run rampant, mutate and now it may require a program to create new vaccines making the pharmaceutical companies richer and perhaps millions more of us will die.
In a way, up till now, we were lucky with COVID-19 because it was easily transmittable but not very deadly. HIV/AIDS was the opposite. It was very deadly but not easily transmitted. What will happen if the next virus is both easily transmitted and very deadly? Both COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, along with Ebola and other deadly viruses that we have seen lately are examples of zoonotic viruses. These are diseases that have entered the human population through animals. Much of this is due to deforestation that has put humans in closer contact with animals whose habitats are being destroyed.
Deforestation has not only added to the transmission to humans of these zoonotic diseases but has also contributed to climate change, which also threatens humankind. The recent COP26 conference had the opportunity to address deforestation but decided to do nothing. The news accounts made it seem that they were addressing deforestation. They agreed on a resolution that said they will stop it by 2030. But this means that they intend to not stop deforestation till then. Perhaps in 2030 they will put forward another resolution to keep cutting down the forests till some future date. Deforestation, of course, is very profitable for a number of industries. Once again, the COP26 conference put profit ahead of human needs.
It is crazy to expect that the people who created the climate crisis will be able to stop it. They are the problem not the solution and the same is true with COVID-19. The problems that are confronting the world today such as climate change, new diseases and war can only be solved by getting rid of capitalism and replacing it with a system that puts human and planetary needs over profits, that is called socialism.
Joe Lombardo is the National Coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coailtion (UNAC).