How socialism made the COVID-19 vaccines possible

The COVID-19 vaccines are a "triumph for capitalism" that relied heavily on "years of public-sector funding"

By Alex Henderson
Published December 28, 2020 3:00AM (EST)
Moderna and Pfizer (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Moderna and Pfizer (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

The coronavirus pandemic has had its deadliest days yet in December 2020, but the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and others offer hope that life might start returning to some degree of normal in 2021. Journalist Leigh Phillips, in an article for the democratic socialist website Jacobin, praises the arrival of the vaccines but expresses strong concerns about the ways in which they will be distributed.

"A jaw-dropping marvel of science, economic planning and selfless, humanist cooperation by thousands of researchers around the globe, the development of this and other vaccines hot on Pfizer's heels has taken a mere nine months since the discovery of the disease, rather than the years or even decades such medical research and development (R&D) normally takes," Phillips explains. "They offer a glimpse of how much more an egalitarian, rationalist world could produce and achieve, freed from the fetters of profit."

Phillips argues that the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna shouldn't be hailed as a "triumph for capitalism," as the companies relied heavily on "years of public-sector funding." The companies, Phillips notes, "relied on state shepherding and bankrolling of the vaccine development process."

Phillips adds that distribution of the vaccines will underscore the harsh inequalities in the U.S. and other countries.

"Before we get out the champagne and toast our genuinely heroic scientists and clinicians," Phillips writes, "we have to recognize that while these vaccines are indeed a light at the end of a very long tunnel, that same tunnel will be yet longer than it needs to be, thanks once again to the irrationality, inefficiency and injustice of capitalism. It will be especially unfair for those in the developing world — and even in many poorer, less populous parts of the developed West, there will be cruelties for those who live outside the metropolitan core, as there already have been throughout 2020 in the United States especially."

Phillips wraps up the article by stressing that the public sector will be crucial in fighting future pandemics.

"Looking beyond the horizon of COVID-19, the threat of future pandemics — and among them will be ones nowhere near as forgiving as this coronavirus — requires, at some point, a serious discussion of how global democracy can be constructed from the bottom up, and how in such a democracy, worldwide economic planning can tame the inefficiencies, irrationalities and injustices of markets," Phillips writes. "Because no one is safe until we are all safe."


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Covid-19 Moderna Public-sector Research Socialism Vaccine