Last year, we saw in real time as the vaccines were first developed at “warpspeed.” It was nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
Throughout the year, although there’s been some fuss about it, the majority of Canadians were happy to roll up their sleeves especially if it meant we could get out of this “new normal.”
We saw firsthand how powerful these vaccines were. We were able to have some semblance of the old normal. Then the variants came.
And now, a year later, the province has issued another round of restrictions. A year after the pandemic stopped being a technical problem, the pandemic seems more endless.
How did it go so wrong?
Rich countries, like our own, have hoarded 80 per cent of the vaccines manufactured. We’ve hoarded so much that we’ve had to throw out hundreds of thousands of doses, at least.
That’s created a very clear global class system between the vaccinated countries and the unvaccinated countries—poor countries have only been able to vaccinate two per cent of their population. Some people have started calling this the vaccine apartheid.
Sure, an argument can be made that our representatives should look out for their constituents first. But addressing global vaccine equity is how they do that.
We can’t solve this pandemic locally.
The clear divide in access to vaccines between countries creates the conditions for our best weapons against this virus to be compromised. It basically allows the virus to mutate freely and exponentially to crack the vaccine by brute force.
Clearly COVAX isn’t working to increase vaccine access. We need to stop putting profits and a perversion of the notion of private property before people if we want this pandemic to end.
These companies have had their costs either partially or wholly subsidized by public money, they’ve had their profits guaranteed even before they were successful through essentially a pre-order scheme. As their investors, we should be demanding a return on our investment. Those vaccines should belong to the people—especially in the cases where the people are the sole investors (e.g., Moderna). Instead, our reps have been protecting “Big Pharma’s” intellectual property rights overseas when they can’t even manufacture enough to provide the opportunity for all countries to buy.
That’s where the COVID-19 TRIPs waiver comes in. We already have a clause within our international intellectual property law to allow governments to take a step back and stop enforcing IP laws for a limited set of technologies for a limited amount of time in order to address a global need.
South Africa and India have proposed this to the WTO about a year ago.
And we have tried seemingly everything else.
It has failed.
Canada, for Canada’s sake, needs to stop stalling.
Jonathan Ra, Langley
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