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May 14, 2021

Fighting the pandemic

Last week, the Biden administration finally challenged the US drug industry, announcing that the White House would support an international waiver of intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic. This is a long overdue measure, but if the industry continues to resist, the negotiations are likely to take months that the world can ill afford. Though the companies benefited greatly from government subsidies and guaranteed purchases – and have seen their profits and stocks soar – they have a large stake in controlling production to ensure continued profits over time.

The Biden administration decision – if aggressively enforced – will put public health over private profit.

As the pandemic rages in India and Brazil, it poses a continued threat to the world. If it isn't brought under control everywhere, new variants will develop and most likely spread, even to countries that have succeeded in inoculating their populations. The pandemic is truly a global threat that requires a global mobilization.

At the national level, global cooperation has been slow to develop. Instead, the surge to supply countries in need is propelled less from a unified global effort and more from a competitive national "vaccine diplomacy," with India, China, Russia and now the U.S. vying to win hearts and minds through vaccine supplies.

Fighting the pandemic isn't just the responsibility of governments. This is a global, human tragedy. The pandemic spreads through the air, so no people are safe unless all are safe. We need at outpouring of citizen action – telethons by stars and musicians, increased donations from foundations, mobilization of volunteers, ramping up of production of supplies – to ensure that vaccines are available and citizens are mobilized to receive them. We need increased global efforts to get the vaccine into rural areas and into the poorest ghettos and barrios of the poorest nations.

Joe Biden announced that he would rely on science for advice, but we can't rely on science or on government alone. Popular mobilization is essential.

If we are to address common global threats such as contagions or climate change or nuclear war, we must develop a global perspective. Now it becomes ever more apparent that, as Dr Martin Luther King taught long ago, “all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. ... As long as diseases are rampant ... no man can be totally healthy, even if he just got a clean bill of health from the finest clinic in America.”

Excerpted: ‘We Must Push Politics Aside in the Global Race to Vaccinate the World Against Covid-19’

Commondreams.org