I’ll never get your fancy capitalist vaccines. Old commies to the rescue.
The new Cold War is in the vaccine fridge. The capitalists are producing vaccines — and buying them all up for themselves, and for profit. The former commies are producing vaccines for the people of the world.
It is important to understand that vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna are all for for profit. Even vaccines like Oxford/AstraZeneca are being bought up by rich countries. The shots will not reach people like me for years, if ever. They’re not supposed to. They’re supposed to make money.
Only Russia and China have actively committed to vaccines as a public good, at scale. These countries are already conducting international trials and committing supplies wherever they can, not just to the highest bidder. They’re doing what the WHO told everyone to do, and they get nothing but scorn in return.
The western press reports whatever China and Russia does as dodgy. Meanwhile anything by a western multinational is great, even if it’s completely unattainable for 85% of the world. It’s important to note that when we cheer western advances, we’re cheering private companies (some listed). The Chinese and Russian vaccines largely come from state-owned companies, and the state plays a significant part in their release.
This is an important distinction, because it tells you what a vaccine is for. Western vaccines are for profit. That’s what they’re supposed to do. The Eastern ones can be for people, they can be international without messing up someone’s 401k. We must be aware of the motives behind these vaccines, not just the top-line numbers on a press release.
This is why we have to look at this vaccine race differently. We have to look at the vaccines that will actually boost global immunity, not what boosts the western stock market today.
Here are some of those vaccines.
How vaccines work
First, how to understand vaccines in general.
Vaccines are a lesson. They teach your body to recognize COVID-19, or parts of it. You can teach the lesson in different ways. You can wrap it in a (deactivated) virus or a cell. You can 3D print it inside the human body using mRNA.
It’s more complicated in practice, but that’s the basic theory. When you inject a virus you’re injecting a little lesson into your veins.
Russia was the first to approve a vaccine, which was greeted with universal suspicion. I know Putin’s a shit, but all you’re all shits. Is the vax suspicion deserved?
Sputnik V (Gamaleya)
The Gamaleya Institute is a well-reputed organization that has produced multiple vaccines in the past. What they are doing with COVID-19 is fairly conventional, with a twist.
The ‘lesson’ they are teaching is to recognize the coronavirus’s spiky crown. This has been researched for over a decade. The method they’re using is to stuff it into an adenovirus (a deactivated cold). This tactic is now decades old.
The science itself is uncontroversial. Boring even.
What makes Sputnik V different is that it uses two adenoviruses to teach the lesson two different ways. In a published study they found that this generates an immune response.
In an unpublished report, they have said that the efficacy of the vaccine is 91.4%. This is based on giving the vaccine to a shitload of people and seeing who gets COVID-19 in the vaccinated vs. the control group, which we can do because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s important to note that besides the two-vector thing, this is exactly the same method as Oxford/AstraZeneca. But look how the western press covers it:
Take these two reports from Science. Oxford is a ‘success’ and Gamaleya ‘doesn’t pass the smell test’. WTF is the smell test? Does it smell like money? The Oxford report was essentially retracted two days later, not the dodgy Russians.
While the Oxford vaccine is technically part of COVAX, the UK and rich countries are undermining that by buying up all the supplies. Sputnik V, however, is already in brown arms. It’s currently in clinical trials across 40,000 people in the UAE, India, Venezuela and Belarus. Two doses will cost less than $20 (cheap) and they are working with India, Brazil, China, South Korea and other countries on manufacturing. This is a global vaccine meant for regular countries to afford and regular people to get.
If you can put aside the ‘Russia Bad’ narrative for a minute, this is good.
Let’s be clear. There would be no vaccines today without China. Every vaccine only exists because China sequenced and released the SARS-CoV-2 genome in January. This is the same reason we had PCR testing so fast. China also eliminated the virus from a population of 1.4 billion people, drastically reducing demand.
Like the back of a Sri Lankan taxi says: Favors I have done. Scolding all I get in return.
All of China’s vaccines are basically, boringly, conventional. CoronaVac is like a flu vaccine for COVID-19. The flu vaccine shows your body some dead flu and says ‘don’t get this’. It’s not a strong effect, but it works. That’s what Sinovac (a private company) is doing here.
They give you some dead COVID-19 (inside a green monkey’s liver cell, if you’re wondering) and your immune system learns the lesson. The response seems to be weaker than actually getting the disease, but for other diseases this is enough.
Sinovac has been testing its CoronaVac in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey and now have enough confirmed cases (74) to show efficacy probably in the next few days. It likely won’t be 90% effective, but 60% of something is better than 90% of a shot I’ll never get.
What ultimately sets China’s state-backed vaccines apart is their commitment to the entire supply chain. Western, investor-backed companies are focused on boosting their share price, and immediately dump shares after a press release. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. Distribution matters most of all.
China's three leading coronavirus vaccine providers - Sinopharm, CanSino, and Sinovac - are working out detailed plans for international procurement and transportation with relevant authorities, a senior expert working with SF Express, who is charge of COVID-19 vaccine global logistics but prefers not to be named, told the Global Times on Monday.
CanSino is teaching the same lesson as Sputnik V and Oxford. Their vaccine delivers COVID’s spike protein in a neutered adenovirus (Ad5). This produces a good immune response. CanSino is currently doing Phase 3 testing on 40,000+ people, mostly in Pakistan. The basic science is standard but again, the difference will be distribution.
Perhaps you’re getting a bit bored here. I am. Guess what SinoPharm does? Same shit Sinovac does just… different. Get a virus from a guy in Wuhan, put it into a green monkey cell (a cultivated cell line, not a specific monkey). Stir. This is an old method, comfortably safe, and it produces a good immune response.
1 million people in China have been injected with this and over 17,000 people are in the clinical trial in Morocco and the UAE. SinoPharm has another similar candidate in trials across 18,000 people in Argentina and the UAE.
I could go on. There are multiple vaccine candidates from China in trials all across the world. What I hope you’ve seen is that these are not big scary commie experiments. These are frankly boring trials using decades old methods, covered by published data each step of the way. You would not know this from western coverage. Take the Wall Street Journal, for example:
Can you see the problem here? Moderna has never produced a vaccine but they just drop a press release and the WSJ runs it. Meanwhile the well-established Chinese institutions have to show proof. And they do. The WSJ just doesn’t care. It doesn’t fit the narrative.
Also note how the WSJ phrases the coverage. Shareholders Smiling. Fuck your shareholders, people are dying. Vaccines are just another product to them, something to gamble on, but these are people’s lives. The coverage is shameful.
This is endemic. The western press covers Şahin and Özlem Türeci of BioNTech (Pfizer) as scientist savoirs, but that shot will never get near my arm. They’re not in COVAX, they have no commitment to distribution. It’s actually boring public vaccines that will help billions, not billionaires.
China has actually committed to helping the world, as a global public good but they’re basically laughed at for this.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing would honour “its commitment of giving assistance and support to other developing countries, and work to make vaccines a global public good accessible and affordable to people around the world”.
But the narrative remains that China is evil. Public good is something the western press cannot understand. “But how does it move the markets?” they ask. Western governments, western media, western people — they’re vaccine nationalists, precisely what the WHO’s Tedros Adhanom warned us about:
While there is a wish amongst leaders to protect their own people first, the response to this pandemic has to be collective.
This is not charity, we have learned the hard way that the fastest way to end this pandemic and to reopen economies is to start by protecting the highest risk populations everywhere, rather than the entire populations of just some countries.
Sharing finite supplies strategically and globally is actually in each country’s national interest.
No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Don’t believe the hype. The only thing western governments ever protected during this pandemic was their stock market. Never their own people and certainly not us. That’s what they’re doing with vaccines now.
The Vaccine International
In contrast, the former Eastern Bloc are the vaccine international. They’re producing actual hope, not hype; for people, not profits. I say this from the third world, traditionally stuck between capitalists and commies. I hope the old commies win this one, for my own sake. Pfizer and Moderna don’t give a fuck about people like me and our only hope is COVAX (which western countries have crippled) or these ‘commie’ vaccines.
So godspeed comrades. Get that shit in my arm
If you got this far, you can listen to my podcast about this issue called I Can’t Get No Vaccination.
Some Of The Studies:
SPUTNIK V: Safety and immunogenicity of an rAd26 and rAd5 vector-based heterologous prime-boost COVID-19 vaccine in two formulations: two open, non-randomised phase 1/2 studies from Russia (The Lancet, September 2020)
SINOVAC: Safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in healthy adults aged 18–59 years: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1/2 clinical trial. (The Lancet, November 2020)
CANSINO: Immunogenicity and safety of a recombinant adenovirus type-5-vectored COVID-19 vaccine in healthy adults aged 18 years or older: a randomised, double-blind, placebo- controlled, phase 2 trial (The Lancet, July 2020)
SINOPHARM: Effect of an Inactivated Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2 on Safety and Immunogenicity Outcomes. (JAMA, August 2020)
covidvax.org - roundup of all the major vaccine and trials
LiveScience: Here are the most promising coronavirus vaccine candidates out there
*I use ‘private company’ vs state-owned here, but I know that listed companies are technically called ‘public’.