Fight Racism! Demand Universal Vaccine and Immigration Justice at the 2022 American Public Health Association Meeting

Karyn Pomerantz, 2-19-2022

Introduction

Public health activists in the American Public Health Association (APHA) have submitted a policy proposing universal vaccination, changes in global trade policy that protects manufacturers, and protection for asylee seekers and migrants. APHA must take a strong position for measures to prevent and treat Covid 19 and demand global working-class solidarity.

Adopting this policy will not guarantee action, but it gives credibility and science-based information to help advocates in the community, universities, and medical, health, trade, and labor sectors to organize more effectively. Writing it has given opportunities for more young public health students to learn about capitalism and to build relationships. What we learned:

Social Murder: Deadly Differences in Global Vaccination Rates

 The rates of Covid 19 continue to reveal the astounding disparities in vaccine access, safe living conditions, and protective workspaces among people in the US and other countries.

Workers in low resourced, more exploited nations are disproportionately unable to secure vaccines to reduce the prevalence of Covid 19 illness and death.  Vaccinated workers in wealthier nations also suffer from variants and breakthrough infections from exposure due to evictions and low vaccination rates.

Unvaccinated people face greater risks of dying and suffering from Covid 19 when vaccination rates are low. While all these factors contribute to viral diseases and their variants, the more deadly conditions arise directly from capitalism and its forms of farming, transportation, access to medical care, and the overall exploitation of workers.

The world needed more than 11 billion doses in 2021 before boosters and kids’ vaccinations became available. As former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden noted, vaccine makers are behind their production pledges, and access to the most effective vaccines is limited. There is no plan to make enough to meet the 70% United Nations vaccine coverage pledge.

As of January 31, 2022, the New York Times Vaccine Tracker from Oxford University reported these deadly differences between low- and high resourced countries. 

  • Barely over 60% of the world’s population has received at least one dose.
  • Full vaccination rates range from a low of .02% in the Congo and .07% in Haiti to a high of 87% in Cuba and 95% in the United Arab Emirates.
  • The number of total vaccines administered per 100 population (rounded up) in the Western Pacific (80%), Europe (60%), the Americas (63%), and South-East Asia (48%) is over 1.4 times that of the Eastern Mediterranean and 6 times that of Africa.
  • Similar trends are apparent when analyzing rates of persons fully vaccinated per 100 population (rounded up): Western Pacific (80%), Americas (63%), Europe (60%), South-East Asia (48%), Eastern Mediterranean (33%), and Africa (8%).
  • 78% of people in high- and upper-middle-income countries has received at least one dose vs. 11% of people in low-income countries, primarily black, Asian and Latin American, has been vaccinated once.
  • The COVAX program that provides free vaccines for poorer countries has cut its promises as richer countries buy up millions of doses and provide boosters to their citizens.

(Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, verified by the New York Times. Jan. 31, 2022)

The Capitalist Causes of Pandemics and Covid 19 Racist Disparities

The rise and mitigation of pandemics are primarily rooted in capitalist economic and social relationships where short-term profits controlled by a few supersede the health and well-being of the entire working class, over 80% of the world’s population. Profiteering, lucrative sales of vaccines by pharmaceutical corporations, trade policies, food production, new agricultural methods, and imperialism, account for much of the development and spread of Covid 19 and other viral diseases.

It is the corporate, finance world that controls the state (the military, media, laws, police, schools, the police), NOT the other way around. While it appears that the politicians determine policy, they are directed by donations (bribes) to support business. The pharmaceutical and oil industries give millions to both parties to win votes and influence political decisions like climate control and social programs. In 2020 alone, pharma paid both political parties $11 million (www.statnews.com) while oil and gas companies paid $503 billion (www.opensecrets.org).

The US controlled IMF and World Bank help the capitalists increase their profits. They impose structural adjustment policies that require poor countries to cut social services to pay off their debt to richer countries. They create bad trade policies where the US ruling class can protect patents on drugs and vaccines.  The cutbacks in education have led to fewer medical training programs and has created a “brain drain” of doctors and nurses.

There are many struggles we can join to build a movement for vaccine equity and other public health improvements:

•           Support the APHA resolution: share it with friends in public health and APHA (email pomerantzkaryn6@gmail.com).

•           Join demonstrations on March 11, 2022 and beyond to demand vaccines for everyone and just trade policies. Rally in Boston on April 28 at Moderna HQ where their CEO will speak

•           Pressure government officials to implement safe and consistent interventions

•           Support student walkouts and teachers from Oakland to NYC demanding safe schools

•           Join groups like People’s Action, Justice Is Global, Right to Health, the People’s CDC, and Public Health Awakened to advocate for just policies

•           Create community talks to educate our friends

•           Sponsor discussion groups on the pandemic

•           Read our multiracialunity.org blog

•           And join our monthly discussion group on ways to fight racism and capitalism.

Ultimately, we need to build a multiracial global movement to build a society run by the working class. We can begin now by unifying across all geographical and ideological borders through our struggles.

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