Before the UK went into lockdown back in March, the Tories were publically pursuing an outrageous ‘herd immunity’ policy. Now, with the government rapidly lifting lockdown measures, against all scientific advice, it is clear that the same callous strategy is back.
Over the weekend, for example, Boris Johnson announced that he would attempt to avoid a new national lockdown at all costs in the (highly likely) event of a second wave. Contradicting his own chief scientific advisor, the Prime Minister described this as being akin to a ‘nuclear deterrent’ that he hoped never to use.
Johnson’s statement is clearly the result of pressure from big business, who are far more concerned about their profits than our lives. We cannot let the Tories and the bosses get away with murder.
The idea of ‘herd immunity’ has already been widely condemned as inhumane and unscientific. Now, however, a recent study in Spain has corroborated international findings that herd immunity is not only a cold-hearted policy that has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths; it is also likely ineffective as an approach to fighting the pandemic.
The study found that immunity in the Spanish population stands at around 5% – far below the 70-90% requirement for herd immunity to even become a factor in the spread of the virus. This suggests that after infection, many lose their immunity after a few weeks; and some seem to never develop immunity at all.
At the start of the pandemic, the Tories entirely failed to contain the virus, employing haphazard contact tracing and individual isolation.
The government then proceeded to butcher the lockdown: endangering non-essential workers by forcing them back into work; and neglecting to reliably provide PPE for NHS and care workers. In short, Tory callousness, incompetence, and hubris put our lives on the line.
Competing for a vaccine
What the findings of this study show us is that any hope for an end to the pandemic lies in the development of a vaccine – one that elicits a sustained immune response, in a way infection itself fails to do.
This is an immense task. It requires the international collaboration of top immunologists, in order to develop and test each potential vaccine as quickly as possible. Only in this way can we minimise further casualties and bring a safe end to lockdowns globally.
But this is impossible under capitalism. Within the profit system, the production of vaccines and other drugs for combatting the virus is dictated not by a rational, international plan of production, but by the logic of the market.
The World Health Organisation – at precisely the moment when international collaboration is required to effectively fight the pandemic – has proved incapable of overcoming the national divisions inherent within capitalism.
And the vultures of the pharmaceutical industry are already fighting to secure a successful vaccine patent, with their eyes on its tremendous market value.
Once a vaccine is developed, there are concerns about how it can be administered. Many of the worst affected areas lack healthcare infrastructure, and will be priced out of supply by wealthier countries.
Already the USA has bought up 90% of the global supply of Remdesivir – a drug which significantly reduces hospital time for coronavirus patients – until October!
The Tories’ blind endorsement of a herd immunity policy is nothing short of criminal. Johnson and his Etonian clique made a clear choice: to trade the country’s health for the profits of big business. The cost is an estimated 65,000 excess deaths – and rising.
This latest study exposes more clearly than ever the interests of the ruling class and its political representatives, which do not align with the interests of the workers.
The labour movement must unite against the government’s reckless attempts to return to ‘normality’ while treatments and a vaccine remain unavailable. We cannot continue to “lose loved ones” for the sake of lining the pockets of CEOs and stabilising the stock market.