[Plura-list] Debunking the arguments for vaccine apartheid

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri May 21 12:31:04 EDT 2021

Today's links

* Debunking the arguments for vaccine apartheid: "Wait your turn" is not
epidemiologically sound.

* This day in history: 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading


👲🏼 Debunking the arguments for vaccine apartheid

The Biden administration's (carefully worded) support for a WTO IP
waiver on vaccines may not be the full-throated support the issue
warrants, but it was still a complete reversal of decades of
subservience to Big Pharma, and the industry is waging all-out war.

The arguments against allowing poor countries to make their own vaccines
are a mix of racist condescension ("poor brown people are too primitive
to make high-tech vaccines"), misdirection ("patents aren't the
problem") and bad faith ("we don't have enough materials").

Writing for Counterpunch, Sonali Kolhatkar teases apart each of these
arguments. Take the argument that poor countries can't make vaccines -
laughable on its face, given India's centrality to the world's vaccine


The problem isn't that India doesn't know how to make vaccines - the
problem is that India's brutal, variant-driven outbreak has caused the
country to hit pause on exports, halting the supply of vaccines to much
of sub-Saharan Africa.


The idea that poor countries are especially prone to unsafe practices
that make people hesitant to get vaccinated is pretty rich, given the US
experience, where government cronies raked in millions of dollars while
spoiling millions of vaccine doses.


Countries in the Global South *can* make their own vaccines, but only if
the WTO green-lights it. It's not enough for Moderna to promise not to
enforce its patents, because the WTO can still do it for them, raining
down terror on poor countries.

Pharma has some very high-profile champions, and chief among them is
Bill Gates, who evidently sees defending "IP" in principle as the key to
advancing his ideological agenda, both personally and through his

I discussed Gates's ideology in depth in this interview with Luke Savage
for Jacobin, where I explore the core idea of "IP" as an ideological
construct: that the law should empower firms to control their customers,
competitors and critics.


IP is the tip of the spear for all right-wing ideology, which Corey
Robin clearly identified in THE REACTIONARY MIND: the belief that some
people are born to rule, and others to be ruled over, and any attempt to
thwart destiny makes us all worse off.


That's why Gates personally intervened to scuttle the Oxford team's plan
to make its publicly funded vaccine research free to all, coercing them
into doing an exclusive license deal with Astrazeneca.


AZ promised to sell vaccines at cost to the Global South...once it's
done providing doses to rich countries. This is also the premise behind
Gates's COVAX initiative, whereby poor countries can register for
donations from philanthropists, corporations and wealthy countries.

As Gates describes it: "Some of the rich countries including the US and
the UK, even this summer will get to high vaccination levels and that’ll
free up so that we’re getting vaccines out to the entire world in late
2021 and through 2022."


That's the deal that Gates - and other COVAX boosters - want: poor
people shouldn't expect to help themselves. They should "wait their
turn." Some are born to rule, some are born to be ruled over, and
upending this natural order will do no good.

Whether driven by greed, racism or ideology, this is not a folly the
world can afford. Allowing continued spread through the 125 poorest
countries (pop 2.5b) will kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
2021 is on track to have a *higher* covid death-count than 2020.

Even if you identify with the rulers, and not the ruled-over, this is
madness. Every time the virus infects someone, it undergoes millions,
even billions of replications. Each replication carries a small chance
of mutation.

Each mutation has a small chance of becoming more virulent, more lethal,
more vaccine-resistant. No one is safe on a half-vaccinated planet. You
can't declare only one end of the swimming pool to have a "no pissing" end.

The fact that COVAX backers claim that once the rich world has been
vaccinated there will be capacity to vaccinate the rest of the world
reveals the bad faith in the argument that the world doesn't have the
raw materials to make vaccine doses for all.

Adopting COVAX instead of a WTO waiver means that access to vaccines can
come with strings attached - demands to privatize publicly owned
infrastructure or knuckle under to other demands. A WTO waiver would put
poor countries in charge of their own destiny.

The Gates camp is big on being in charge of your own destiny - if you're
one of the born rulers. Just listen to how Gates and ghouls like Howard
Dean talk about how strong protections for their privileges provide the
"incentives" needed to produce live-saving vaccines.


Nevermind that mRNA vaccines owe their existence to tens of billions of
dollars in *public* investment, with the monopolistic pharma companies
only coming in after all the risk was shouldered by what Mariana
Mazzucato calls "the entrepreneurial state."


It's a point that was beautifully made by Rep Katie Porter with one of
her trademark whiteboard-based Congressional grillings of the CEO of
pharma company Abbvie during a hearing on price-gouging.


Porter asks the CEO how much money his company spends on R&D, marketing,
compensation and stock-buybacks and other forms of financial
engineering. She already knows the answers, and has circles of colored
construction-paper ready to show the relative spending.

All of this builds to a triumphant climax in which Porter affixes a vast
blue circle representing "Stock buybacks and dividends" to her
Whiteboard of Justice, a circle so big it dwarfs everything else on the

The vaccine manufacturers absorbed billions in public cash and have told
their shareholders to expect a rosy future in which they charge
$175/dose for annual boosters. Their CEOs took home tens of millions in
bonuses based on those promises.

Those are the true stakes here: not "IP" as an incentive for those who
were born to rule to deign to develop the medicine we all need. We get
that from public funding, from competition, and from the scientists who
do the real work - not the executives who privatize it.

The cost of letting poor countries control their own epidemiological
destiny is depriving monopolists of that control.

The advantages of putting vaccine manufacturing in the hands of the
Global South, on the other hand...

Those are the true stakes here: not "IP" as an incentive for those who
were born to rule to deign to develop the medicine we all need. We get
that from public funding, from competition, and from the scientists who
do the real work - not the executives who privatize it.

The cost of letting poor countries control their own epidemiological
destiny is depriving monopolists of that control.

The advantages of putting vaccine manufacturing in the hands of the
Global South, on the other hand...

* Saving millions of lives

* Preventing vaccine-resistant, more lethal variants

* Giving people control over their own destiny rather than making them
beg with multinational corporations and elite philanthropists for their
very lives


👲🏼 This day in history

#20yrsago Kaycee hoax FAQ

#15yrsago Fantazyland: Egypt’s run-down theme-park

#10yrsago RIAA boss takes home $3 mil+

#10yrsago Raising a kid without disclosing their sex

#10yrsago German police raid German Pirate Party’s servers two days
before election

#5yrsago Airbnb stealth-updates terms of service, says it’s not an
insurer and requires binding arbitration

#5yrsago Oculus breaks promise, uses DRM to kill app that let you switch
VR systems

#1yrago Patent troll sues ventilator makers

#1yrago The Lost Cause and MMT

#1yrago Walt's grandson calls for Disney execs' bonuses to be canceled

#1yrago Ifixit's medtech repair manual trove is full to bursting

#1yrago Software secrecy

#1yrago Climate and machine learning


👲🏼 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism
(https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), The Shuttleworth Foundation

Currently writing:

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests.
Yesterday's progress: 270 words (1600 words total).

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* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)

Upcoming appearances:

* In conversation with David Dayen (Second Life Book Club), Jun 4,

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Recent appearances:

* How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism: Seize the Means of Computation

* Interoperability and Alternative Social Media

* Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a
(print edition:
(signed copies:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
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* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
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copy here:

Upcoming books:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

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"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion
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