The UK’s national immunisation effort, so far, has been a rare success story in a pandemic otherwise characterised by chaos. This shows the superiority of planning and public ownership over the ‘invisible hand’ of the market.

The UK’s national immunisation effort, so far, has been a rare success story in a pandemic otherwise characterised by chaos. This shows the superiority of planning and public ownership over the ‘invisible hand’ of the market.

The pandemic has exposed the real meaning of the ‘Great’ in Great Britain. And it is not what the Tories would like us to believe.

With one of the greatest excess death rates in the world, along with one of the greatest economic collapses, the rottenness of British capitalism has been clearly revealed. The Tories and the bosses are responsible for this catastrophe, through their attempts to prioritise profits over workers’ lives.

Yet one relative success of the pandemic – so far – is the vaccination programme. Over 10% of the British population have now received their first dose, with hundreds of thousands more being vaccinated every day. By comparison, at the time of writing, less than 7% of Americans and just over 2% of Germans had received their initial shot.

In fact, the only countries to have vaccinated a greater share of their populations are Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain – all countries with much smaller populations than Britain.

Planning and public ownership

How is it that the UK government – which has failed abysmally in organising an effective test-and-trace system – has managed to lead the way with vaccinations?

Put simply, as expressed in an article in the Financial Times: “The success is because of a combination of strong planning, a willingness to spend and the centralised structure of the NHS.”

In other words, rapid progress is being made precisely because vaccine delivery has not been left to the ‘invisible hand’ of the market, but has been organised and distributed through centralised planning and public ownership.

Even the Financial Times, the mouthpiece of big business and champion of the ‘free market’, has been forced to recognise this fact.

David Salisbury, who until 2013 was the senior official in charge of immunisation for the government, explained: “We have one consolidated system that functions under a command and control basis, and that’s the ideal way to implement an immunisation programme.”

Lest we forget, the privatisation and break up of the NHS is something the Tories – and their Blairite imitators – have been attempting for decades.

Outsourcing failure

Compare the initial results of the vaccine roll out to that of the Tories’ disastrous £22bn test-and-trace programme – widely considered by health professionals to be a “failure”.

Billions were spent on contracting out services to the private sector, often for little in return. This included outsourcing the set-up of testing centres to global ‘management consultants’ Deloitte, and the operation of call centres to outsourcing giant Serco.

It is true that the British vaccination programme has not been without problems. Chief among these is the shortage of available doses. But this is primarily a problem arising on the side of the profit-driven pharmaceutical companies and their suppliers – that is, due to the private ownership of the means of production.

Lives before profits

All this goes to prove what the apologists of capitalists have always desperately tried to deny: that to best serve people’s needs, the planning of production and distribution is far more efficient than the profit-driven market.

This, in turn, requires public ownership. After all, you cannot plan what you don’t control; and you cannot control what you don’t own.

The labour movement must organise and fight to sweep the profiteers out of our healthcare system. This means bringing all services and staff back in-house, reversing privatisations, ending outsourcing, expropriating private health providers, and nationalising Big Pharma.

Only with a socialist planned economy – with all the key levers under democratic workers’ control – can we fully fund the NHS and put lives before profit.