As socialists, we know that health care is a social good. That is why we fight for socialized health insurance, and why we will continue the fight beyond that for a national health care system. However, the fight for health justice extends beyond our borders, and that is especially and dramatically apparent now, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.
Several vaccines against COVID-19 have been developed. The vast majority of funding sources for vaccine development has been public money, but the manufacture and distribution of these vaccines have been restricted through patents held by for-profit pharmaceutical companies.
Wealthy nations, such as the US, represent 14% of the world’s population but have already purchased rights to 53% of the most promising vaccines to date, and these same wealthy nations have laid claim to enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of the year.
To combat this, India and South Africa have proposed a temporary waiver of the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Agreement, or the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. This waiver, if it is approved, would lift the trade barriers prohibiting generic vaccine manufacturing and allow countries across the world to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine and fight the pandemic.
Currently, the US opposes waiving the TRIPS agreement, which means that the Biden Administration is one of the biggest obstacles to approval of the TRIPS Waiver. We have endorsed the Long Week of Action organized by a broad coalition of health justice activists. We applaud our chapters that have organized direct actions as part of this week, including Twin Cities and Metro DC DSA. We call on the Biden Administration to support the TRIPS Waiver now.