After an EU wide public relations stunt, aimed as a show of unity on the eve of Brexit, the COVID vaccination roll outs finally began towards the end of December.
Incredibly as the pandemic worsened, these have now turned sluggish with less clarity every day on when the roll out will be complete.
Pfizer have announced a slowdown in vaccine distribution in order, they say, to improve manufacturing capacity to meet the demand. The EU has claimed this will affect the credibility of the vaccination programmes across the bloc. While Astra Zeneca have also stated they will reduce deliveries to the EU by 60% in the first three months of 2021.
Political games between multinational pharmaceutical companies and the EU have undermined any credibility the programme might have had.
In Ireland the government had asked for an early supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine ahead of its approval here. The AstraZeneca vaccine costs €1.78 euro a shot with one and a half doses giving 90% effectiveness against the virus. Enough people receiving this vaccine would help eradicate the virus in the community and enable an end to lockdowns and a return to some sort of normality.
However around 77,000 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a cost of €15.50 per shot and will need another one after twelve weeks to ensure 92% effectiveness.
The slowdown in distribution will mean many waiting longer then twelve weeks for the second shot undermining its effectiveness and lengthening the pandemic.
At the same time we are in the middle of a predictable and preventable third wave of the pandemic with rapidly rising fatalities and thousands of infections daily. January 2021 will be the worst month of the pandemic by far for case numbers and deaths. This is hitting the health service hard with the Irish Times reporting that 6,400 health workers are on sick leave because of the virus.
Yet, unbelievably, there are many frontline health workers who are still awaiting the first dose of the vaccine and are worried for the health of their patients and themselves. The underfunded health service is under extreme pressure, as Militant Left warned it would be in an article we published last March https://militant-left.org/covid-19-crisis/.
We have government ministers from the Taoiseach down actively lying. The capitalist establishment are working to transfer responsibility for the new wave of infections onto ordinary people. People are being blamed for socialising over Christmas, despite the government stating it was safe to do so. While the Taoiseach has pointed his finger of blame for the huge recent spike in case numbers at the UK variant, despite the fact it has only reached our shore over the last few weeks.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar shamefully blamed NPHET for the change from Level 5 at the beginning of December to Level 4, which saw shops are some pubs and restaurants open in time for the Christmas rush. Throughout the Level 5 period we were subject to anti-lockdown stories in the media and criticism of NPHET for their demands for more restrictions. However, it is well documented that NPHET consistently called for people to stay home and not socialise but the government spin contradicted this.
While nobody wants lockdowns or restrictions, the surge of infections has left many people willing to take no chances and wait for the vaccine roll out. But again with no clear leadership from Government, and suggestions of corruption – it has been reported that some government TDs are boasting they can influence the waiting list for vaccines – people will question the ability of the government and the health service.
In a socialist society research and development of vital medicines and vaccines will be based on co-operation not competition with scientists and researchers sharing data globally, with none of the COVID nationalism on show today.
The newspaper of Militant Left’s sister organisation, The Socialist Party of England and Wales, recently published an article highlighting how the World Health Organisation’s Covax programme, which is meant to oversee the distribution of vaccines to poorer countries, has been left deliberately underfunded with no contributions from the US or China. As a consequence the expensive vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer are out its reach https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1116/31824. This means there will be a huge demand for less expensive vaccines like AstraZeneca’s for the more populated and exploited neo- colonial countries.
COVID vaccines should be available to all free of charge with each country receiving the amount it needs and no favouritism for the so called ‘Developed’ world. However, under neoliberal capitalism this is not happening. The treatment and well-being of the patient should be the bottom line, not profit. Everyone should be treated equally. The administration of health care should be in the hands of the majority not the exploitative minority like the owners of for profit healthcare or giant pharmaceutical companies. Health is a fundamental human right, not a commodity and should be removed from the greedy hands of the capitalist profiteers.