In a new piece, Vice falls for the anti-capitalist argument about vaccines. The problem with this is that the anti-capitalist argument against the current vaccine strategy and patents is wrong.
Vice gets excited by the announcement of an open-source Covid vaccine. This is a nice enough thing to have, we are after all in the middle of a pandemic. The problem is that Vice buys into the story that it is vaccine patents which are the problem: “calls for mass-producing patent-free COVID-19 vaccines to address the lack of widely-available vaccines in low-income countries,” and, “ virologists have frequently noted that new variants like Omicron are more likely to emerge in countries where vaccines aren’t widely available — a problem that vaccine patents exacerbate,“ and, “the Texan center is freely sharing the recipe and know-how with anyone who asks for it—without strings attached—in order to, as they put it, “decolonize,” the vaccine distribution process.”
Capitalism means patents, patents – and thus capitalism – are the problem and they manage to fit in a “decolonize” as well. Except patents — capitalism — aren’t the problem at all. The problem is with manufacturing the vaccines, not access to the patents to be allowed to manufacture them. An example of such problems is here. Just about everyone who can make the new vaccines is currently making the new vaccines. Patents just aren’t a limitation.
But the analysis is even worse than this. As NPR points out – and imagine how bad your analysis needs to be if NPR is able to correct it – there’s a problem with this new open source vaccine: “ One drawback to the CORBEVAX technology is that it can’t be modified as quickly as mRNA vaccines can to adjust to new variants. “ In fact, it’s even worse than this. The open-source vaccine uses an older vaccine creation technology – one that takes more time. This is why it is still – still, now – in its test phase. No one is getting their shot with the new vaccine as yet, however decolonized and non-capitalist it is.
Capitalism and patents aren’t just not part of the problem, they are the solution. People have been, in the middle of a global pandemic, getting their shots against covid for a year now. Without capitalism and that patent system we’d all still be waiting. Which is perhaps something that Vice might have thought about telling its readers.
Vice is an important media outlet these days. The TV station reaches 60 million American households, the magazine a 900,000 distribution. The website gains near 30 million visits a month. This is where a lot of the young gain their news from.
It is fashionable to be anti-capitalist. There is a campaign being run to blame vaccine delays upon patents and profits. But when we have an actual example of a not-for-profit, patent-free and non-capitalist vaccine we find that it’s a year late even if also a dollar or more short of those capitalist prices. Vice would actually be informing its readership if it pointed out both sides of this issue – even if they can’t quite bring themselves to acknowledge that capitalism has been the solution here.