Anti-Vaxxers and Big Pharma, Partners in Crime

Image by Jeremy Bezange.

The common accusation hurled at proponents of covid-19 vaccines, like me, is that we are carrying dirty water for Big Pharma. The overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe, does not matter. The fact that they are effective at keeping people out of the hospital, doesn’t matter. The scientific certainty that vaccines reduce transmission (especially among the boosted, even against omicron), doesn’t matter. These truths, the conspiracists boldly tell us, are simply cooked up by Big Pharma’s goons and spoon-fed to the gullible masses by mainstream media and their corporate overlords.

Anti-vaxxers have a laundry list of reasons why they will never accept the hard data, let alone give it an unbiased look. Hospitals and public health departments are all in on the big hoax too, you see, paid off by all those covert pharmaceutical agents. Bill Gates and Dr. Fauci are getting rich off the devious scheme, and we are all suckers for buying the tricksters’ plandemic lies. The real goods, the disbelievers confess, are being censored and they alone hold the keys to the truth behind what’s really going on. After all, Big Pharma has a huge incentive to spread their filthy lies. You remember the opioid-pushing Sacklers, don’t ya?

What many of the skeptics do not realize, however, is that by discounting vaccine efficacy and overlooking the mountain of science supporting their use, they are inadvertently aiding and abetting the very Big Pharma villains they claim to despise. How is that, you ask?

There is one big reason: Big Pharma does not want to inoculate the world’s poor against covid-19 and neither do the anti-vaxxers. Their agendas end up being the same, just executed by different means.

Over 60 countries are not on track to vaccinate 40% of their population by the end of 2021. Our World in Data

Pfizer and Moderna won’t release their patents while the anti-vaxxers (through negligence or ignorance) persistantly deny the vaccine needs of the globally impoverished.

COVAX, directed by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization, was set up to allocate doses of the covid-19 vaccines throughout the world but hasn’t gotten the job done because the US government, Pfizer, and Moderna have refused to step in to produce and distribute covid-19 vaccines to countries in need, at no cost.

“At a point where we were going through the third wave in Africa and had completely no doses, the richer countries were rushing to vaccinate even their teenagers, when health care workers in Africa were working in COVID treatment centers, unvaccinated. They knew it. We were in the news. We were making all of these noises. We were literally begging,” explains Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe, new vaccines introduction officer at WHO Africa.

The price of making and distributing the vaccine for free to the entire world? $25 billion states the advocacy group Public Citizen. As of last 2021, only 8% of people living in poor countries have received a single dose of a covid-19 vaccine.

The taxpayer-funded National Institute of Health was integral to creating Moderna’s mRNA vaccine. We shelled out $10 billion for research and development of the shot through Operation Warp Speed. Additionally, as Public Citizen explains, the US government has the capacity to manufacture the vaccine on a large scale and equitably share it with countries around the world for free. In the case of Pfizer, US taxpayers handed the company nearly $2 billion to the company once the FDA approved their vaccine and has agreed to purchase even more in 2022.

Moderna and Pfizer, along with their shareholders, are not too excited about the prospect of losing out on another profit windfall, they would much rather sell their vaccines at a market rate than lend a hand to the world’s less fortunate. Together, the companies pocketed $50 billion in revenue last year, and there’s more to come as long as we don’t get in their way. Moderna, in a sinister display of avarice, agreed to sell meager 110 million doses to African countries, a continent of 1.2 billion people. It was more of a sick PR joke than a genuine gesture of goodwill.

“The U.S. can help lead the world out of the pandemic if our government acts now,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “A $25 billion investment could support the manufacturing of vaccines for more than half the world’s people, in time to spare them years of needless suffering.”

If you think that’s a lot of cash, consider this. Just last December Congress approved $768 billion on military spending, which was $25 billion more than Biden had requested. The US has the resources, expertise, and wherewithal to get the vaccine to the world. If we can remotely bomb families in Afghanistan and blow up dams in Syria, we can sure as hell handle vaccine allocation. One US drone costs around $123 million.

The result of hoarding this vaccine technology is that it has created an inherently racist Vaccine Apartheid, an ugly truth the anti-vaxxers fail to address, or simply do not understand because they are caught in a mindless loop of their own inanity. This segregative practice may well lead to the incubation of future variants — variants that may not be so kind to our immune systems as omicron appears to be. This is not an unreasonable concern as the previous variants of alpha, beta, gamma, and delta first popped up in unvaccinated populations. It is also believed the omicron variant may have evolved in an immune-compromised individual who was potentially unvaccinated.

“The longer the virus can replicate or reproduce within a host, the more opportunity for mutations to occur,” says Anna Durbin, director of the Center for Immunization Research, “…the largest driving factor is that the vaccines just aren’t available. The highly effective mRNA vaccines, even some of the adenovirus-vectored vaccines, aren’t being provided in large enough numbers to these countries.”

Here’s a look at the percentage of people vaccinated against covid by the percentage of the population.

For reference, Europe’s population is 748.3 million. The United States is 329.5 million and Africa is 1.26 billion.

Here’s another graph showing just how much Africa is in need of the covid vaccine (note: Europe and the US exceed 100 doses per 100 people because of the three-dose regimen).

“I grew up in apartheid. I know what it means to be a second-class citizen or even a third-class citizen. And this is what we saw in this current pandemic. Black and brown people in Latin America, in Asia and Africa were told to wait,” says Fatima Hassan, director of the Health Justice Initiative in South Africa. “We were told that the knowledge wouldn’t be shared with us. We should participate in clinical trials. We should contribute to scientific knowledge, but we should wait, basically last in line, like we did during apartheid, for access to any kind of service, whether it was education or health, before we could get our vaccine.”

And just one last chart that shows just how effective vaccines have been in the US at reducing the risk of death by covid (note: it’s 99% reduction). If you don’t believe the world deserves to have access to these vaccines, when they have proven to be so effective, you are either evil, a Big Pharma exec, or both.

Most around the globe have not been as lucky as those of us who live in the US or Europe, yet so many in these countries still buy the vaccine misinformation being sold by the likes of RFK Jr., Jimmy Dore, Joe Rogan, Tucker Carlson, and a handful of other privileged, mostly, white men — all of whom discount covid vaccines because greedy Big Pharma really sucks. Yes, Big Pharma does suck. But they don’t suck because the vaccines they’re producing aren’t life-saving drugs. Big Pharma sucks because they are withholding the formulas of these vaccines from much of the world, and the anti-vaxxers, unwittingly or not, are their partners in crime.

JOSHUA FRANK is the managing editor of CounterPunch. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, published by Haymarket Books. He can be reached at joshua@counterpunch.org. You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.