Yes the technology is complicated, but not sharing it is a choice
The new argument for blocking patent-free vaccines is that mRNA is too difficult. Non-white countries shouldn’t even try. Take Max C. Roser from the otherwise excellent OurWorldInData. He has called the very idea of ending the pandemic by sharing vaccines a ‘false hope’.
What Roser displays is the soft bigotry of low expectations. Dumb darkies could not possibly figure out mRNA technology, so there’s no need to even try. Well, we figured out nukes. Give us a chance.
mRNA technology is absolutely difficult. But this is a reason for more sharing, for more cooperation, not giving up. In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s a life or death situation.
Do you know how many mass-produced mRNA vaccines there were last year? Zero. Moderna has never manufactured a vaccine before, and their effort is almost completely funded by the US government. If this technology can come from nowhere for the west, why is it impossible for the rest of the world?
Instead, white people are trying to assuage their guilt by blaming us. It’s not our fault for fucking the world, the world couldn’t possibly understand. You fucking assholes. Forget cooperating, you’re blocking the bare minimum at the WTO, and then gaslighting us like we’re stupid. You won’t even let us try.
mRNA technology is too important to be hoarded
The fact is that mRNA technology is so transformative that it should be shared as a global public good anyways. Forget this pandemic, we’ll need this technology for future pandemics as well, and for other diseases. This foundational technology (largely government funded) is too important to be held for the profit of a few companies, it must be a global public good.
With the polio vaccine Jonas Salk didn’t patent it, saying “could you patent the sun?” Western nations today are like, “wait, can we patent the sun?”
Will it take time to scale up machines and technology? Absolutely. All the more reason to start now. The inability to think beyone weeks or months is what got the West so fucked up with COVID in the first place. We have to think of mRNA as the vaccine technology of this century, and that technology must be shared.
Yes it will take time. Yes it will take work, but we need mRNA vaccines for global public health challenges that will only get worse with time. And if we do not share then everyone’s health will be worse. Millions of people will die. The WHO keeps saying this but no one listens. It is true. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
The fact is that not sharing vaccine technology is a choice. Countries like Russia and China are widely sharing vaccines, technology, and expertise. In Sri Lanka, when our main PCR machine broke, China sent people to fix it. Russia has offered to help us manufacture their Sputnik vaccine here. When times are hard you see who your friends are, and the west is no friend to humanity. The entire western COVID response has been a long crime against humanity, and their vaccine racism is the worst.
Why should white people get the best vaccines?
The idea really seems to be that every white person should get the best vaccines and billions should get whatever they can whenever they can, who cares? Faced with a common, mutating enemy, this isn’t just immoral, it’s self-defeating for us all.
The virus has already mutated around available vaccines like AstraZeneca in places like South Africa. The longer it remains active anywhere in the world the more danger everyone is. Many countries simply cannot reach herd immunity with vaccines that are less than 90% effective, and so the virus will keep mutating there. This is a real threat to humanity. mRNA production being hard is not a fact, it is a challenge, and people saying we shouldn’t try are not being realistic. They are being callous and cruel.
The people making these comments and writing these articles will all get vaccinated before billions of us in the Global South. First responders, the elderly, our vulnerable, they’re telling us all to go fuck ourselves. Young people like Roser will get their jab well before all of us and arrogantly tell us not to be outraged. The UK has vaccinated 20% of its population compared to 0.055% of all of Africa, and these people tell us not to be outraged. To value solutions. What solution is this? Don’t even try?
I am reminded, often of Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, talking about how he just can’t with white ‘moderates’.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Faced with the rampant vaccine racism sweeping the western world, I feel the same way about ‘moderates’ like Max Roser or Bad Covid Takes. These ‘moderates’ see difficulty as a reason to give up on justice. They see delays as a reason to deny our rights. They take their jabs and tell billions of us to wait for a ‘more convenient season’.
The truth is that vaccine racism is an issue of justice, not technology. Technology we can figure out. The greed and arrogance of whiteness I will never understand.