Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Mon Jul 04, 2022 2:18 pm

The Inequality Pandemic
July 3, 2022
More billionaires, more extreme poverty. Global inequality has skyrocketed since Covid began


Excerpts from PROFITING FROM PAIN, a briefing paper published in May 2022 by Oxfam International.

Billionaire wealth and corporate profits have soared to record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, while over a quarter of a billion more people could crash to extreme levels of poverty in 2022 because of coronavirus, rising global inequality, and the shock of food price rises supercharged by the war in Ukraine. Oxfam’s research has found that:

Billionaires have seen their fortunes increase as much in 24 months as they did in 23 years.
Billionaires in the food and energy sectors have seen their fortunes increase by a billion dollars every two days. Food and energy prices have increased to their highest levels in decades. 62 new food billionaires have been created.
The combined crises of COVID-19, rising inequality, and rising food prices could push as many as 263 million people into extreme poverty in 2022, reversing decades of progress. This is the equivalent of one million people every 33 hours.
At the same time a new billionaire has been minted on average every 30 hours during the pandemic.
This means that in the same time it took on average to create a new billionaire during the pandemic, one million people could be pushed into extreme poverty this year….
By every dimension, inequality has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic.

Wealth inequality

According to Oxfam’s analysis of the latest data from Forbes:

There are 2,668 billionaires in the world, 573 more than in 2020 when the pandemic began.
These billionaires are collectively worth $12.7 trillion – a real-terms increase of $3.78 trillion (42%) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Total billionaire wealth is now the equivalent of 13.9% of global gross domestic product (GDP), up from 4.4% in 2000.
The richest 10 men have greater wealth than the poorest 40% of humanity combined.
The richest 20 billionaires are worth more than the entire GDP of sub-Saharan Africa.
Elon Musk, the wealthiest man in the world, is so rich that he could lose 99% of his wealth and still be in the top 0.0001% of the world’s richest people. Since 2019 his wealth has increased by 699%.
Income inequality

COVID-19 is already set to drive the biggest systemic increase in income inequality ever seen. On top of this the rapidly rising prices of food and energy, which hit the incomes of the poorest hardest, are set to drive up global inequality still further.

The incomes of 99% of humanity have fallen because of COVID-19, 28 with the equivalent of 125 million full-time jobs lost in 2021.
It would take 112 years for the average person in the bottom 50% to make what someone in the top 1% gets in a year.
The incomes of the richest have already recovered rapidly from the hit they took at the beginning of the pandemic while the incomes of the poorest have yet to recover, which is driving up income inequality.
In 2021, the poorest 40% saw the steepest decline in income, which on average was 6.7% lower than pre-pandemic projections. This has led to rising income inequality, which had been declining since the 2000s as measured by the Gini index, but which in 2020 increased by 0.3% in emerging and developing economies.
Gender inequality

Governments have failed to prevent the pandemic from deepening longstanding gender inequalities in the economy. During the pandemic women were disproportionately pushed out of employment, especially as lockdowns and social distancing affected highly feminized workforces in the service sectors, such as tourism, hospitality, and care work. Increased unpaid work has barred millions of women from rejoining labor markets. And now, worldwide, women are expected to cope with the huge rises in food and energy prices in order to keep their families fed.

The gender pay gap has widened: before the pandemic it was forecast to take 100 years to close; now it will take 136 years.
In 2020, women were 1.4 times more likely to drop out of the labor force than men37 and took on three times more hours of unpaid care work.
In 2021, there were 13 million fewer women in employment compared with 2019, while men’s employment recovered to 2019 levels.
More than four million women workers have not been able to return to work in Latin America More than four million women workers have not been able to return to work in Latin America and the Caribbean, a trend driven by high levels of informal employment and increased care work.
Racial inequality

Across the world, the pandemic has hit racialized groups the hardest. This is directly linked to the historical legacies of white supremacy, including slavery and colonialism. Previous research by Oxfam has found examples of how Afro-descendant and Indigenous people in Brazil, Dalits in India, and Native American, Latinx, and Black people in the USA face disproportionate lasting impacts from the pandemic.

During the second wave of the pandemic in England, people of Bangladeshi origin were five times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared with the White British population.
4 million more Black Americans would be alive today if their life expectancy was the same as White people’s. Before COVID-19, that alarming number was already 2.1 million.
Half of all working women of color in the US earn less than $15 an hour, a widely used threshold for distinguishing low-wage workers in that country.
Health inequality

Good-quality healthcare is a human right, but it is too often treated as a luxury. Having more money in your pocket not only buys you access to healthcare, it also buys you a longer and healthier life.

The life expectancy of people in high-income countries is 16 years longer than of those in low income countries.
An estimated 5.6 million people die in poor countries every year due to lack of access to healthcare. That is more than 15,000 people every day.
In São Paulo, Brazil, people in the richest areas can expect to live 14 years longer than those who live in the poorest areas.
Ultimately, inequality, including a lack of access to healthcare, contributes to the death of at least one person every four seconds.
The pandemic and the world’s failed response to it have exposed these vast health inequalities, fed off them, and made them far worse.
As a result of the pandemic, four times more people have died in poorer nations than in rich ones.
Some 11.66 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally50. If they had been distributed fairly then every adult in the world who wanted it could be fully vaccinated; instead, just 13% of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated.
Every minute, four children around the world lose a parent or caregiver as a result of the pandemic. Almost half of them are in India, where over two million children have suffered such a loss.
When COVID-19 struck, 52% of Africans lacked access to healthcare and 83% had no safety net to fall back on if they lost their job or became sick.
Inequality between countries

Before the pandemic, inequality between rich countries and lower-income countries was falling and had been for three decades. COVID-19 has reversed this trend. Low- and middle-income countries now face a lost decade while rich nations once again pull ahead.

Particularly concerning is the huge debt burden now facing so many countries, which undermines any hope of recovery and is preventing them from doing more to shield their citizens from soaring prices. It is becoming ever more costly for governments to service this debt, forcing them to make dramatic cuts to public services like health and education and leaving them unable to provide financial support to citizens.

Fourteen out of sixteen West African nations intend to cut their national budgets over the next five years by a combined $26.8bn, in an effort to partly plug the gap of $48.7bn lost across the region in 2020 alone due to the pandemic.
Debt servicing for all the world’s poorest countries is estimated at $43 billion in 2022 – equivalent to nearly half their food import bills and public spending on health care combined. In 2021, debt represented 171% of all spending on healthcare, education and social protection combined for low-income countries.
87% of COVID-19 loans made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) come with conditions that demand that low- and middle-income country recipients adopt tough austerity measures that will further exacerbate poverty and inequality.
60% of low-income countries are now on the brink of debt distress. ... -pandemic/
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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Sat Jul 09, 2022 2:29 pm


Ending pandemic aid created a disaster
Originally published: The Lever on July 5, 2022 by Andrew Perez & Nick Byron Campbell (more by The Lever) | (Posted Jul 08, 2022)

New government data show that after the government terminated pandemic relief programs, millions more Americans began struggling to survive.

In all, roughly four in ten Americans say they are having difficulty paying their bills–a nearly 50 percent increase since last spring, according to a Lever review of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

As the suffering has increased, Washington policymakers, Beltway economists, and corporate media personalities have started pressing an austerity agenda, demanding even more pain in the name of taming inflation–even though data suggest inflation is largely being driven by corporate profiteering and supply chain blockages rather than wages or consumer spending.

The new numbers bolster those pressing President Joe Biden to fulfill his campaign promises to expand Social Security and cancel student debt. They show that such direct aid almost immediately improves Americans’ economic prospects.

Indeed, the number of Americans experiencing financial difficulties dropped substantially in the first half of 2021, thanks to pandemic relief measures that added $300-weekly federal unemployment benefits, sent out two stimulus checks totaling $2,000, and expanded the child tax credit to provide most American parents with payments of $250 or $300 per month per kid.

Benefits Were Cut Off
While the federal pandemic aid has ended, inflation has drastically increased. As a result, since last April, there has been a staggering 49 percent increase in the number of Americans reporting that it’s very or somewhat difficult to pay typical household expenses.

Matters appear to be getting substantially worse now–and rapidly. The percentage of Americans reporting financial stress jumped more than 13 percent between May and June. This figure is the highest it’s been since the Census Bureau started asking this question in August 2020.

The overall increase in financial hardship can be clearly traced to the end of pandemic aid programs. Most Republican-led states moved to cut off the federal unemployment benefits last spring, and Congress allowed the expanded unemployment programs to expire last September.

In December, Congress let the expanded child tax credit expire, too. They’ve also stopped sending out stimulus checks.

To make matters worse, inflation has accelerated since the federal aid was cut off, and Americans are having to contend with record price increases in their daily lives.

Making The Situation Worse
The federal government’s response to inflation has been to raise interest rates–a move that will likely put downward pressure on wages, cause job losses, reduce worker bargaining power, and exacerbate the housing crisis.

Financial hardship could continue to climb even further thanks to congressional inaction: Americans on individual health insurance plans will see their premiums spike next year if Democrats fail to extend the subsidies they passed last year. Without an extension, people on these plans will receive notices about new premium increases in October, just before the November midterm elections.

When the Biden administration formally ends the public health emergency the federal government declared at the start of the COVID pandemic–a move that could come as early as October–up to 14 million Americans could lose their Medicaid coverage, since states will be incentivized to start throwing millions of Americans off of their Medicaid rolls.

Last week, a Bloomberg News house editorial–which typically express the views of its billionaire owner, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg–called on the federal government to set a firm date to end the public health emergency and limit funding so that states start trimming their Medicaid rosters.

“Lawmakers can rarely resist too much of a good thing,” said the editorial. “But with the COVID crisis ebbing, the country needs to start getting back to normal. Ending these emergency programs–while easing the transition–is the right thing to do.” ... -disaster/


‘Forever Plague’: Nikiforuk Responds to Critics

On Monday The Tyee writer published a detailed caution against COVID minimizing that went viral and sparked fierce debate. Here’s his response.
Andrew Nikiforuk

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist whose books and articles focus on epidemics, the energy industry, nature and more.


Nikiforuk’s article has drawn a quarter million views in five days, quarrels on social media and a sharp blast from Slate magazine.

As a journalist my job is not to sugar-coat reality, cheerlead for the status quo or defend the powerful. My responsibility is to put emerging trends on everyone’s radar particularly during a novel pandemic that disproportionately affects the poor.

My latest article on COVID — “Get Ready for the Forever Plague: Public health officials’ COVID complacency has opened the door to new illnesses and devastating long-term damage” — did just that.

It warned people that variants of Omicron are evolving at record speed. Moreover these new variants are experts at immune evasion and rapid transmission.

My article added that reinfections are a rising phenomenon and changing in scale. It warned that reinfections come with higher risks of worst health outcomes. It added that our vaccines, so far, are waning in the protection they provide against infection.

And it warned that infection, whether producing symptoms mild or severe, can destabilize the immune system.

The piece ended by reminding readers that our best protections remain N95 masks, avoiding crowds, improved ventilation and filtration of the air (the virus is airborne), testing, tracing and transparent data collection and reporting. I added that vaccines are critically important but they can’t stop the pandemic alone without the layered support of other public health measures such as masks and better ventilation.

But many jurisdictions throughout North America have abandoned or minimized these important tools. Many have all but given up on fighting the COVID fire through public health measures beyond providing vaccines. Unfortunately, personal responsibility is not an effective substitute for shared action during a pandemic.

What I thought was a basic heads-up about the next wave, unexpectedly struck a nerve. The story went as viral as an Omicron subvariant. It sparked enormous and often rancourous debate in social media. Some praised the piece for outlining new risks and for not minimizing the threat of COVID.

Others disagreed. They denounced the article as scaremongering and inaccurate. Slate magazine, for example, trashed the article yet postulated: “The ‘Forever Plague’ article resonated with many because it successfully conveyed the urgency of the pandemic when the zeitgeist is maddeningly blasé.”

The article’s popularity probably does reflect growing concerns about the evolution of the pandemic and conflicting narratives about how to deal with it. Minimizers say we don’t have anything to worry about. Realists, like myself, beg to differ.

I want to emphasize that people, scientists, journalists and medical doctors, can look at the available data and reach different conclusions.

The appropriate response is not to be dismissive or attack or call the work lies, but to critique and offer an alternative analysis.

COVID has, for some reason, created a situation where any deviation from the official public health view brings a response that seems intended to silence those advocating for appropriate health protections.

Angela Rasmussen, a well-known virologist, particularly took umbrage with the article even though she agreed with many of its central points. Typical of many detractors she characterized the piece as “hyperbolic” and poorly sourced. She also accused me of “doomsaying.” Clearly, she did not like the tone or the wording.

Okay. Let’s parse some important points raised by Rasmussen, Slate and others. The virologist began by claiming that it is hyperbole to say COVID can “wreak havoc” on any organ in the body. “Virologists would say this virus has broad tissue tropism. SARS-CoV-2 does. It infects many tissues,” tweeted the virologist.

Rasmussen then pointed out an obvious mistake. A link in my article meant for a reference to evolving variants was mistakenly attached to “wreak havoc.” She correctly wondered where the supporting evidence for “wreak havoc” went. The Tyee made an error, and we stand corrected. We’ve also changed the phrase “any organ in the body” to “vital organs in the body” to be more precise.

So here are a few links on the multi-organ havoc COVID can do: A recent Scottish study found “persistent multisystem abnormalities” among 159 COVID patients released from hospital. These abnormalities included “cardio-renal inflammation, diminished lung function” and other poor outcomes.

Even mild COVID is linked to brain damage. And yes, even mild COVID can increase the risk of heart problems or lasting damage to airways.

For a longer discussion of “broad tissue tropism” or organ havoc I’d recommend this Science article.

Rasmussen then claims that I said there’s “a growing body of science” showing “reinfections are going to kill us all with multiple organ failure.” That’s hyperbole and I never wrote that. I did say that infections and reinfections will increase the number of people suffering from poor health outcomes including long COVID. If you are going to seriously criticize a writer for hyperbole, it’s probably best to refrain from the practice yourself.

Rasmussen, like many critics, then professed ignorance about experts downplaying COVID infections as inevitable and even beneficial. Skeptical critics implied there was no evidence of this. Let me provide two links to articles in the Wall Street Journal representing this kind of harmful thinking. One article promised a good chance of herd immunity by April.

Another said taking measures to speed the spread of Omicron would produce the best long term outcomes.

Now let’s deal with various issues concerning immunity and reinfection. Slate magazine claimed my article was full of untruths. It said that it is not true that COVID infection can destabilize and age your immune system. It said it is not true that new infections don’t confer immunity. And it also contested my statement that “it is now possible to be reinfected with one of Omicron’s variants every two to three weeks.”

Here’s why I wrote what I did.

In 2021 the researcher Niharika Duggal of the University of Birmingham reported at a conference that COVID patients discharged from hospital showed “the age-related decline in the body’s ability to form a defence against viruses and other illnesses.” The New Scientist, too, wrote about premature immune system aging in COVID patients.

A study published in March concluded that COVID infection “may lead to T-cell dysfunction, depletion and eventually lymphopenia in patients.” In plain English an infection can cause direct damage to the immune system.

The immunologist Anthony Leonardi has long argued these points. He thinks that the virus is well designed to serially challenge and insidiously age the immune system. Here is an excellent interview with him.

Leonardi, by the way, was one of the first researchers to theorize that one COVID infection could make individuals more susceptible to bad outcomes from a second infection — due to immune dysregulation. As with many emerging parts of the COVID puzzle, a lot of health experts found this idea unpalatable and dumped on Leonardi the same way they have now dumped on The Tyee.

Yet important new research, which my article highlighted, compared people with reinfections to those with one infection. Reinfections doubled all-cause mortality and adverse heart and lung troubles. They also increased the risk of hospitalization three fold.

Eric Topol, a reliable U.S. physician and science writer, noted another worrying finding: “with additional episodes of COVID, for every outcome there was a stepwise increased risk.”

So Leonardi has been more right than wrong. Slate just might want to profile this very credible and controversial scientist and ask what he is seeing that so many others are ignoring.

Now let’s deal with the contentious subject of repeated reinfections over short periods of time. For some reason this issue bugged a lot of critics.

Remember, I wrote that “it is now possible to be reinfected with one of Omicron’s variants every two to three weeks.” Slate, however, committed its own hyperbole on the matter by saying that “A viral article paints a picture where we’re constantly sick.” That’s not what I said. I merely warned that it was a distinct possibility for some of us if we don’t stop transmission. I didn’t say it was our reality yet or that at any point all of us would be constantly sick with COVID.

So what is the reality?

Last April the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a field report on reinfections. It documented ten cases of reinfection — all during the Omicron wave — the majority among children and health-care workers. The shortest interval between one infection and a subsequent reinfection with a different lineage of COVID was 23 days — hence the basis for my sentence.

The researchers added that “antigen tests are increasingly performed at home, resulting in specimens being unavailable for strain testing. Thus, most early reinfections are likely not identified.” So the actual numbers of people having reinfections within 30 or 90 days is unknown but probably much greater than what the CDC picked up. (It is important to note that reinfections may also represent relapses whereby persistent infections reappear.)

The CDC isn’t the only group that has reported on reinfection intervals. The European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases recently reported on a case of a fully vaccinated Spanish health-care worker who caught Delta. Twenty days later she was reinfected with Omicron. The congress ended its account with this advisory:

“This case highlights the potential of the Omicron variant to evade the previous immunity acquired either from a natural infection with other variants or from vaccines. In other words, people who have had COVID-19 cannot assume they are protected against reinfection, even if they have been fully vaccinated.”

Given this evidence and anecdotal reports from health-care workers with a history of reinfections, public health authorities should be keeping a registry on reinfections and tracking the biological consequences over time.

Alright. Let’s fast forward to the reality in Australia where two Omicron variants BA4 and BA5 are raging. Here’s what Andrew Robertson, Western Australia’s chief medical officer of health, recently said to citizens about reinfections.

“What we are seeing is an increasing number of people who have been infected with BA2 and then becoming infected (again) after four weeks,” he said. “So maybe six to eight weeks (later) they are developing a second infection and that’s almost certainly either BA4 or BA5.”

And now the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has announced that it has reduced reinfection intervals from 12 weeks to 28 days.

The San Francisco Chronicle just reported that so called “hybrid immunity” (vaccine combined with previous infection) isn’t working either. “Vaccinated and boosted people who were infected as recently as January’s Omicron surge are finding themselves testing positive for the coronavirus a second or even third time.” And so on.

A recent New York Times piece looked at reinfection data from South Africa (it is a big issue there) and speculated about the future as I did in my piece.

The article quoted Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. He made this statement: “If we manage it [the pandemic] the way that we manage it now, then most people will get infected with it at least a couple of times a year. I would be very surprised if that’s not how it’s going to play out.” So I don’t think I was scaremongering. A more apt characterization of my intent would be the urging, in the strongest terms, that public health officials and citizens employ the precautionary principle in the face of fast evolving and highly contagious variants.

Reinfections are happening everywhere and will lead to more cases of long COVID. Robert Wachter, a medical professor at the University of California recently noted in the Washington Post that “the best-protected person still likely has at least a 1-in-20 chance of lingering symptoms” if they get infected.

The truth is this: infections are not giving us reliable protection against reinfections and our immune system is worse off. Even the World Health Organization warned about this possibility in 2020. With few public health measures at play, society has chosen a path of long-standing vulnerability to this virus and its variants.

Last month a really important study published in the journal Science shed more light on this critical issue. It warned that Omicron variants were poor boosters of immunity against future infection.

Rosemary Boyton, an immunologist at the Imperial College London, found that “Getting infected with Omicron does not provide a potent boost to immunity against reinfection with Omicron in the future.” Indeed, even the triple-vaccinated “had 20 times less neutralizing antibody response against Omicron than against the initial ‘Wuhan’ strain.”

When experts talk about “immunity” from COVID infections people assume they have some kind of lasting protection and shield from further harm. Boyton’s work indicates that would not be the case.

In this uncivil age of reckless tweeting, I hope nobody accused Boyton of scaremongering or hyperbole. I strongly recommend that concerned citizens listen to her careful account of the Science findings to an independent science advisory group in England last week. It is sobering.

British immunologist Danny Altmann added another important point. Not only can Omicron “break through vaccine defences, it looks to leave very few of the hallmarks we’d expect on the immune system — it’s more stealthy than previous variants and flies under the radar, so the immune system is unable to remember it.”

And that’s why I bluntly wrote in my piece that new infections confer no immunity. But to be accurate (and avoid semantic disputes) I should have said that new infections confer so little immunity — because the immune system is unable to remember them — that we must seek every other protection available. The Tyee has made that correction to the original story.

Lastly, many critics disparaged the article as fear mongering and doomsaying. Some even called for its removal. I strongly disagree. Unlike many of our public health officials the article pointedly communicated new research as well as growing concern about the evolution of this pandemic and its complexity.

As such the article (like some responsible health experts) challenged wishfully optimistic narratives among the status quo.

Many officials have minimized Omicron as “mild” and forecast that “harmless endemicity” will arrive any day or is here now. They also promised widespread immunity, hybrid immunity and herd immunity. They claimed the variants would evolve to a benign state. Reinfections and immune evading variants have punched big holes in this narrative. The idea that there is some benefit from getting infected has now been shown to be false. And now “the worst variant” has arrived.

Downplaying the pandemic is not recipe for ending it but compounding it.

Yaneer Bar-Yam, a complexity expert and founder of World Health Network, has long warned about the trajectory of the pandemic and the need to reduce transmission with a combination of tools including widespread testing. Bar-Yam recognizes that complex things like pandemics often lead to unforeseen and non-linear outcomes.

He, too, has rejected the notion that future variants will be kinder and milder.

“In the context of uncertainty, you really want to act according to things that might hurt you the most rather than the things that might turn out for the best,” Bar-Yam noted in a 2021 interview. “If you’re walking along a cliff that might crumble, you change your course. You don’t continue along the cliff edge saying ‘Well, it might not crumble.’ But that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The great novelist Albert Camus observed in The Plague that a doctor’s job during a pandemic is difficult. It is not glorious or biased towards optimism. It “is a matter of lucidly recognizing what had to be recognized; of dispelling extraneous shadows and doing what needed to be done.”

That too is a reporter’s job, and what I will continue doing here at The Tyee. ... s-Critics/
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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Mon Jul 11, 2022 2:24 pm

How Pfizer Won the Pandemic, Reaping Outsize Profit and Influence
By Arthur Allen
JULY 5, 2022


The grinding two-plus years of the pandemic have yielded outsize benefits for one company — Pfizer — making it both highly influential and hugely profitable as covid-19 continues to infect tens of thousands of people and kill hundreds each day.

Its success in developing covid medicines has given the drugmaker unusual weight in determining U.S. health policy. Based on internal research, the company’s executives have frequently announced the next stage in the fight against the pandemic before government officials have had time to study the issue, annoying many experts in the medical field and leaving some patients unsure whom to trust.

Pfizer’s 2021 revenue was $81.3 billion, roughly double its revenue in 2020, when its top sellers were a pneumonia vaccine, the cancer drug Ibrance, and the fibromyalgia treatment Lyrica, which had gone off-patent.

Now its mRNA vaccine holds 70% of the U.S. and European markets. And its antiviral Paxlovid is the pill of choice to treat early symptoms of covid. This year, the company expects to rake in more than $50 billion in global revenue from the two medications alone.

Paxlovid’s value to vaccinated patients isn’t yet clear, and Pfizer’s covid vaccine doesn’t entirely prevent infections, although each booster temporarily restores some protection. Yet, while patients may recoil at the need for repeated injections — two boosters are now recommended for people 50 and older — the requirement is gold for investors.

“Hopefully, we could be giving it annually and maybe for some groups that are high-risk more often,” CEO Albert Bourla told investors this year. “Then you have the treatment [Paxlovid] that will, let’s say, resolve the issues of those that are getting the disease.”

Just last week, the Biden administration agreed to buy another 105 million doses of Pfizer’s covid vaccine for the fall booster campaign, paying $3.2 billion. At $30.47 a dose, it’s a significant premium over the $19.50-a-dose rate the government paid for the first 100 million. The vaccine is being modified to target early omicron variants, but newer variants are gaining dominance.

Because the virus keeps mutating and will be around for a long time, the market for Pfizer’s products won’t go away. In wealthier countries, the public is likely to keep coming back for more, like diners at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, sated but never entirely satisfied.

The reliance on Pfizer products at each stage of the pandemic has steered the U.S. response, including critical public health decisions.

When last year Bourla suggested that a booster shot would soon be needed, U.S. public health officials later followed, giving the impression that Pfizer was calling the tune. Some public health experts and scientists worry these decisions were hasty, noting, for example, that although boosters with the mRNA shots produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech improve antibody protection initially, it generally doesn’t last.

Since January, Bourla has been saying that U.S. adults will probably all need annual booster shots, and senior FDA officials have indicated since April that they agree.

At a June 28 meeting of FDA advisers considering a potential fall vaccination campaign, Pfizer presented studies involving about 3,500 people showing that tweaks to its covid vaccine allowed it to elicit more antibodies against the omicron variant that began circulating last December. But most of the advisers said the FDA should require the next vaccine to target an even newer omicron variant, known as BA.5.

That would mean more work and expense for Pfizer, which called on the FDA to enable it to make future changes to the covid vaccine without human trials — similar to how annual influenza vaccines are approved. “If such a process were implemented, responses to future waves could be substantially accelerated,” said Kena Swanson, Pfizer’s vice president for viral vaccines.

FDA officials at the meeting did not immediately respond to the suggestion.

As societies abandon other efforts to control covid’s spread, such as mask mandates and physical distancing, Pfizer’s prospects look even brighter, especially now that the company has brought out the first oral covid treatment, Paxlovid.

“People are going to get out there,” Angela Hwang, president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, told investors May 3. “We know with all of that, infections are going to increase, and that’s the role that Paxlovid can play.”

During a recent investor call, a Pfizer official could spin the recent reports that the virus can hide from Paxlovid into good news, predicting that, as with the vaccine, patients may need multiple courses.

Immunocompromised patients “may carry this virus for a very, very long time,” Dr. Mikael Dolsten said in the investor call. “And we see that area as a real new opportunity growth area for Paxlovid to do very well, where you may need to take multiple courses.”

Pfizer has spent handsomely to bolster its influence during the pandemic. Since early 2020, it has shelled out more than $25 million for in-house lobbying and payments to 19 lobbying firms, pushing for legislation to protect its products and promote more robust U.S. vaccination programs.

Pfizer’s donations to political candidates in the 2020 cycle were larger than those of any other drug company, totaling about $3.5 million, with the greatest share going to Democrats. Joe Biden got $351,000; Donald Trump just $103,000.

Unlike Moderna, Sanofi, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson, which got billions of dollars in U.S. support, Pfizer did not seek government money to develop its vaccine, saying it would work independently.

Pfizer did benefit from $445 million the German government provided to BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner in developing the vaccine. And, in the end, Pfizer relied substantially on U.S. government logistical support, according to a new book by former Health and Human Services official Paul Mango.

Pfizer recorded $7.8 billion in U.S. revenue for its covid vaccine in 2021. The government has options to buy 1.6 billion Pfizer vaccine doses and has so far bought 900 million of them, including 500 million purchased at not-for-profit prices to be donated to poor countries.

Pfizer’s terms in the contracts exclude many taxpayer protections. They deny the government any intellectual property rights and say that federal spending played no role in the vaccine’s development — even though National Institutes of Health scientists invented a key feature of Pfizer’s vaccine, said Robin Feldman, a patent law expert at the University of California.

“The agreement could set a precedent,” in which another company could cite Pfizer’s contracts to argue the government has surrendered any rights to an invention, she said.

The government also has agreed to buy about 20 million five-day courses of Paxlovid for $530 each.

Prices for the covid drug and vaccine will go up once the pandemic period is over, Bourla said at a January event, “to reflect the cutting-edge technology.”

Pfizer spokesperson Sharon Castillo declined to respond to specific questions about Pfizer’s influence on pandemic policy. She released a statement saying that “since Day 1 of this pandemic, we have been laser-focused on working collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders to bring to the world two medical breakthroughs. In doing so, we have moved at the speed of science, complied with the strict regulatory processes, and relied on our scientists’ expertise and manufacturing prowess.”

There is little question that the company ripped a scientific home run in responding rapidly to meet the medical needs created by the pandemic. It used artificial intelligence to track the spread of the virus and find the best places to recruit volunteers for its vaccine trials and deployed rapid drug-screening tools to develop Paxlovid.

Its success with the covid vaccine has raised hopes for a Pfizer vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, a danger to babies and older adults. The company is also moving toward seeking licensure for shots that protect against Lyme disease and hospital infections.

Pfizer had long shunned the vaccine business, with its historically modest financial returns. It dropped out of human vaccine production in the late 1960s after the recall of its disastrous measles vaccine, which sickened scores of children after exposure to the virus caused unexpected reactions with antibodies stimulated by the shot. The company returned to the field in 2009 when it bought Wyeth, which was making a highly effective and uncommonly profitable vaccine against pneumonia and ear infections.

Now, Pfizer is a new kind of global powerhouse. In 2021 alone, the company hired nearly 2,400 people. “We are a household name right now to billions of people,” Bourla said in January. “People are trusting the Pfizer vaccines.”

The company’s power worries some vaccinologists, who see its growing influence in a realm of medical decision-making traditionally led by independent experts.

During a recent investor call, analyst Evan Seigerman of BMO Capital Markets asked whether the world was “kind of walking blindly into recommending boosters” so frequently.

Data from Israel, which uses only Pfizer’s vaccine and has provided most of the studies that have led to vaccination booster recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that third and fourth doses of the mRNA vaccines increase antibody levels that quickly wane again. Added boosters saved some lives in the over-60 population, but the data is less clear about the benefit to younger adults.

When President Biden in September 2021 offered boosters to Americans — not long after Bourla had recommended them — Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a developer of a vaccine for an intestinal virus, wondered, “Where’s the evidence you are at risk of serious disease when confronted with covid if you are vaccinated and under 50?”

Policies on booster recommendations for different groups are complex and shifting, Offit said, but the CDC, rather than Bourla and Pfizer, should be making them.

“We’re being pushed along,” he said. “The pharmaceutical companies are acting like public health agencies.” ... influence/

Never ever forget that the first priority of any capitalist entity is to make money and all other considerations are secondary at best.
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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Tue Jul 19, 2022 4:27 pm

Prisoners in hazmat suits were spotted digging mass graves on Hart Island in New York City to bury victims of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Tasnim News Agency)

Why the U.S. failed to control COVID-19: incompetence, class violence, deception, and lies
By Deborah Veneziale (Posted Jul 18, 2022)

Originally published: Guancha on June 29, 2022 (more by Guancha)
This was originally written for a Chinese audience and adapted and published in Guancha. — Eds.

The United States (together with its Western allies) always tries to tell China what to do in managing COVID-19 outbreaks, and since the whole city of Shanghai was under lockdown, the U.S. media seems to have even more reasons to criticize China’s anti-virus policy. But here’s the irony: If China had done as “well” as the United States, 380 million Chinese would have been infected and 4.46 million would have died.1 In fact, only 5,226 people died from COVID on the Chinese mainland.2 This is an amazing achievement given that China is a developing country with far fewer medical resources per capita than the United States.3

If China followed the current advice of the Financial Times and the West, and abandoned the dynamic zero-COVID policy, millions of Chinese would die. To be sure, estimates of the likely number of deaths can vary by as much as 70% between models,4 because the models on which these estimates are based make many assumptions. Even the lowest published projected number of deaths (which includes many unconfirmed assumptions in the model) is over 1.6 million 5 and the model does not account for deaths from new COVID variants.

China takes human life seriously. Despite having a per capita income of only 17.3% of that of the United States,6 the average Chinese life expectancy is 77.9 years.7 Preliminary studies find that life expectancy in the United States is 76.6 years.8 American life expectancy declined by 2.26 years between 2020 and 2021. The U.S. media is advocating for China to abandon its dynamic zero-COVID strategy, which is basically advocating mass racist killings. Perhaps it is not surprising that the most violent state on earth is making such noises.

Let’s be objective: the United States is one of the worst countries in the world at controlling COVID-19, which has not only claimed more than one million American lives but has also caused and continues to cause enormous social and economic devastation in the country. This article examines the impact of U.S. anti-COVID policy and what the Western media has to say about it. Three main conclusions can be drawn.

First, the actual damage of COVID-19 to U.S. society has been greatly underestimated. Historically, pandemics have allowed pre-existing structural fractures in capitalist society to be exposed and magnified. The coronavirus has killed over a million people and infection rates remain high; the long-term post-COVID symptoms continue to damage people’s health, with minorities and the poor suffering disproportionately. The functioning of U.S. society has been severely disrupted, with working-class families bearing the heaviest costs. An already decaying healthcare system has been hit hard, with overextended facilities incapable of housing the large number of patients or treating them due to the lack of proper medical and personal protective equipment. Sixty-five percent of nurses across the United States have been verbally or physically assaulted in the past year, and one in three has claimed that they will resign by the end of the year.9

Meanwhile, billionaires and large corporations are reaping huge financial benefits during the pandemic. Selfishness, individualism, and racial hatred is spread throughout American society. In short, the callosity of the U.S. elite class reveals the pathological class violence against the working class in the United States. Marx scientifically points out that the process of capitalist accumulation itself constantly creates a disposable “surplus” population. In the United States, capital has found despicable yet legal ways to “dispose” of this surplus population, and pandemics are one of these ways.

Second, China’s socialist benevolent policy, scientific management, and ability to learn from this pandemic, as well as the discipline and sacrifice of its people, have shown incredible results in protecting people’s lives and preparing for the future. China, as a middle-income country, has the resources to take complex steps to protect the lives of its people. But to the embarrassment of the G7 developed countries, when China developed vaccines, it immediately made most of its production available to the world’s poorest people. This is internationalism. In sharp contrast, the United States, and its private pharmaceutical manufacturers, under its protection, refused to make the therapeutic drug Paxlovid and the vaccines available quickly and cheaply to other countries.

Third, the pandemic has forced the U.S. elite to wage their ideological war in an increasingly intense and virulent manner. They have used their hegemony in the media and other ideological spheres to hide the reality of their own failure to fight COVID, and to exaggerate the distortions and lies about China’s policy and effectiveness in fighting the virus.

The incompetence of the U.S. government has led to millions of deaths
When COVID-19 had not yet spread to the United States, its media and politicians called it a “plague”. Two years later, when COVID had infected more than 84 million people and killed more than 1 million in the United States, they changed their story and said that COVID-19 was–at least after several mutations–equivalent to seasonal influenza, and therefore promoted the policy of “coexistence with COVID-19”. Globally, COVID-19 has a case reported mortality rate of about 1.61%, 1.2% in the United States.10 In the U.S. there were an estimated 460,00 deaths from COVID in 2021 versus 20,342 11 deaths attributed to flu in 2019 (even less in 2021).

Based on global data, Case Fatality Rates (CFR) averaged one percent for Lassa hemorrhagic fever, mumps encephalitis, all less than Covid.12 “Coexistence with mumps” or “coexistence with smallpox” is unimaginable in developed industrial countries, where children with mumps-induced encephalitis are quarantined and smallpox has been eradicated since 1977. Yet the U.S. media and politicians are urging people to coexist with the coronavirus, which has a much higher death rate.

There is a conscious or unconscious belief that infectious diseases will become progressively less lethal as they mutate, eventually becoming a mild and common disease. Although infectious diseases usually evolve in a mild direction in the long term, it may not necessarily be the case in the short term.13 Immunologists tell us that the evolutionary trajectory of the virus depends on the complex interplay of several factors that shape the response of our immune system to the evolution of the virus. In a scenario where the virus has multiple hosts, such predictions become even more difficult.14

The Alpha variant is 40% more lethal than the original virus. Delta is twice as likely to cause severe cases than the Alpha variant, and the statistically relatively low mortality rate is likely the effect of widespread vaccination rather than a reduction in viral lethality. The Omicron variant is slightly less lethal (0.9%) but more infectious and has caused more deaths than the Delta variant in the United States.15 There is no guarantee that the next COVID variant will be less lethal, and it could still kill tens or hundreds of thousands of people. Leading German virologist Christian Drosten recently admitted his own optimistic estimates in the first year of the pandemic were wrong. He also distanced himself from a government committee convened to battle the disease.16 Betting that the virulence of the SARS-Cov-2 virus will reduce with time, cannot be a responsible public health measure.

The Financial Times has reluctantly acknowledged 17 that Europe is now facing a surge in new hospital admissions from the Omicron BA.5 variant. They have further acknowledged that lack of testing, abandonment of outbreak control, and high rates of reinfection in people who have already been vaccinated three times may lead to higher mortality rates in the future.

The effectiveness of herd immunization remains to be seen. When Trump was the U.S. President, he supported White House senior medical advisor Scott Atlas who said that if enough people were vaccinated (or infected with COVID), the virus would have nowhere to spread and die out naturally.18 For the same reason, Biden also focuses on vaccination, arguing that if vaccination rates reach 70% or more, masks can be fully abandoned and social activities resumed.19 But historically, effective herd immunization (e.g., measles) has three necessary conditions: a stable, non-mutating virus, a very effective vaccine, and high vaccination rates. And none of these three conditions existed at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

In more than two years, COVID-19 has mutated into at least six major variants; vaccines effective against the Delta variant have become limited against Omicron;20 and vaccine efficacy decreases by 20 to 30 percentage points after about six months.21 There is also no evidence that patients infected with COVID-19 are automatically immune (like smallpox or mumps), and the number of reinfections with coronavirus has been rising sharply since the Omicron variant was discovered.22 From the beginning, Chinese central health officials have maintained the right scientific attitude and insisted that no compromise be made until there is sufficient evidence.

Although the cause remains unclear, substantial evidence shows that even after cure, COVID-19 can cause a variety of long-term symptoms, including extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, reduced memory and attention, and joint pain.23 Thirty percent of patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 still suffer from long-term symptoms after six months,24 and some patients have had symptoms for more than two years. About one in five patients infected with COVID have developed long-term symptoms, nearly 17 million people across the United States.

British scholar Ravi Veriah Jacques, who recovered from COVID 14 months ago, still has to be bedridden for 13-16 hours a day due to chronic symptoms.25 Catie Barber, a registered dietitian and a 29-year-old long-distance runner in the United States, is still unable to walk and is confined to a wheelchair due to chronic symptoms five months after recovering, and she nearly lost her life to COVID-induced heart disease.26 Vaccination prior to infection provides only partial protection during the acute phase of the disease and has limited impact on long-term symptoms.27 For working class people who have to live on wages, these long-term symptoms can further impair their ability to work and their income levels.

Around 1 in 5 adult COVID patients develop long-term symptoms.

All these facts raise the question of why the world’s most powerful and resource-rich country responded to the catastrophic outbreak of an infectious disease in such a way that its people have suffered so deeply? Around New Year’s Day 2020, officials from the Chinese Center for Disease Control called Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to warn him of the dangers of the COVID virus 28– a new virus that Chinese doctors had just identified a few days earlier. Incredibly, U.S. media claimed that China was withholding information. It was U.S. officials who withheld information from other agencies within the U.S. government, and from the American people. Their incompetence and withholding of information allowed the United States to waste valuable time in developing a response plan.

Class inequality in the pandemic

Trump’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro, predicted on January 29, 2020, that the COVID epidemic would cause 500,000 deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage. Yet the U.S. government continued to let the virus run its course, and one important reason is that the ruling class that controls the country has suffered very little from the epidemic. Among the 12 U.S. billionaires who have died over the past two years, none of them died from COVID-19. The wealthy U.S. bourgeoisie has a larger per capita living area and better community infrastructure, does not need to clock in and out of crowded factories or offices, and enjoys expensive and superior medical care. As a result, in the two phases that caused large numbers of deaths (late 2020 to early 2021 and August to November 2021), residents in high-income counties in the United States were less than 20% as likely to die from COVID as those in low-income counties.29 When affluent Americans say that no one around them has died from COVID, the odds are that it’s true.

The rich even benefit from the pandemic. In March 2020, the Federal Reserve launched uncapped quantitative easing, expanding its balance sheet by $5.2 trillion by the end of the year. Trump and Biden signed economic bailouts of $2.2 trillion and $1.9 trillion, respectively. These additional monetary issuances quickly brought the U.S. stock market back to all-time highs, thus making ultra-rich stockholders even wealthier. By October 2021, the total wealth of U.S. billionaires reached $5 trillion, a 70% increase compared to March 2021, with the wealth of the top five billionaires (Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page) increasing by 118%.30 So, it’s no surprise that Musk tweeted “Give people back their godamned freedom” as the epidemic was causing its first spike in deaths at the end of April 2020. After all, every day that workers were quarantined at home meant that his accumulation of wealth was slowed down a little bit. Musk’s wealth, during the epidemic, grew sevenfold, making him the richest man in the world.

Total Wealth of Billionaires Grew Significantly During the Pandemic.

Contrary to common perception, the working class has benefited very little from U.S. economic growth over the past few decades. Since 1980, the richest 10% of the U.S. population has grabbed more than half of all economic growth, while the working class, whose incomes are lower than the median, have received only 10% of economic growth. In each of the three periods of economic growth over the past three decades, the top 10% of income earners received about half of all income growth.31 Households with incomes below the median have seen almost no income growth over the two decades from 2000 to 2020.32 The working class are a silent group in the U.S. political environment, and while Trump (with his chief strategist Stephen Bannon) liked to boast about the support of the “white working class”, it was actually the racist far-right lower middle class that was mobilized by his fascist policy. They are mostly white, mostly from small towns or rural areas, running small businesses or doing professional jobs, and they make up about a quarter of the country’s population; they are better off than the working class (though also on the decline), and are often employers of the working class.

Fifty percent of households with incomes below the median have seen little income growth in three decades.

After a short period of containment, the U.S. government relaxed controls of the epidemic, guided by a policy of “herd immunity” that had not proven effective for the current phase of COVID. Business owners strongly demanded that all control measures be lifted because they needed their employees back at work to resume production and operations, at the expense of the working class. Working class individuals are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people of higher social and economic status,33 but debt pressure and a lack of savings forced them to return to work. Of households earning less than $35,000 a year, 57.3% experienced job loss or income decline during the pandemic, and 60% of households struggled to cover daily expenses; 47% fell behind on housing payments, and 7 million feared eviction or foreclosure within two months; 25% (nearly 11 million people) experienced food hardship.34 In order to make ends meet, the working class has to return to work at the risk of dying from COVID or suffering from chronic symptoms, which Musk calls “freedom”.

U.S. low-income families struggle to survive basic needs.

While most effective means of preventing and controlling the epidemic were abandoned in the name of “individual freedom” and “restoring society to normalcy,” in reality the bourgeois elite was only concerned with keeping their money-making businesses up and running. In fact, despite the reluctance of the U.S. government to implement lockdown measures, social activity has been severely disrupted, and after more than two years there is still no sign of pre-COVID normality. In the education sector, for example, by the end of 2020, 24 million elementary school students had already lost an average of 54 days of instructional time.35 By the end of November 2021, U.S. elementary and middle schools had experienced a total of 71 weeks of complete or partial suspension (compared to 27 weeks in China).36 In August 2021, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Return to School Roadmap to support school reopening.37 As a result, only days after classes resumed, 120,000 children were infected across the United States and many schools had to close again.38

The long-term inability to resume regular schooling has shown clear negative effects, with students suffering learning losses observed in several states, such as in Texas, where two-thirds of 3rd grade children tested below grade level in math in 2021, an increase of more than 30% from previous years.39 Meanwhile, children from lower-income working-class families who have less access to good IT facilities and distance learning environments, are more severely impacted by school closures. According to estimates from consulting firm McKinsey, children from low-income families lose an average of 12.4 months of learning time (national average 6.8 months) and are expected to lose 4% of their total life earnings (national average 2.2%).40

The U.S. media can’t wait to announce that the U.S. economy has returned to normal after dropping COVID controls; according to CNN’s “Back-to-Normal Index”, the current U.S. economy is back to 93% of its pre-pandemic (March 2020) level.41 The Dow Jones and S&P 500 hit record highs in late 2021, but then fell sharply. From January to April 2022, the S&P 500 fell more than 13%, its worst four-month performance since 1939.42 More importantly, the stock market does not truly reflect the economy, even with the massive stimulus package, real U.S. GDP only grew by a combined 2.11% between 2020 and 2021,43 accompanied by severe inflation and rising prices. The “normality” that the media is so fond of touting, has not materialized for the working class. The U.S. Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, taken between April 27 and May 9, 2022, indicates that nearly 138M people had difficulty paying their household expenses; more than 31M people had lost employment or received no wages; and almost 74M people had, either sometimes or often, not enough to eat.44 In June 2022, there was an 8.6% year-over-year increase in CPI, the highest rate of inflation in 40 years.45

Real GDP curve based on Q4 2019 shows slow growth in U.S. real GDP after the outbreak of the pandemic.

The CPI curve based on December 2019 shows a significant increase in U.S. prices after the outbreak of the pandemic.

More significantly, while GDP, to a degree, can indicate the health of an economy, it is a pathological way of thinking to worship GDP growth as the ultimate goal of the country. When adverse events (e.g., widespread natural disasters, wars, pandemics, etc.) occur, commodity prices rise abnormally and this is also counted as GDP growth. Under the GDP Supremacy mindset, it is not optimal to reduce social activities for a short period of time to control the spread of the epidemic; rather, it is optimal to let the virus spread and go on with business and life as usual. The spread of the virus will instead increase medical and pharmaceutical consumption, thus increasing GDP. This is key to why the U.S. government chose to “coexist with the virus,” and the pharmaceutical and testing companies received huge subsidies thanks to the long-lasting epidemic.

The average price of a PCR test in America is $130 ($185 without health insurance),46 which has allowed hundreds of billions of dollars to flow to the companies involved, while at the same time being an argument for the infeasibility of mass testing and a zero-COVID strategy. In comparison, China has reduced the price of a PCR test to RMB3.5 (about $0.52), and the country spent RMB21.6 billion in April 2022 for normalized mass PCR testing, about 0.2% of GDP. This spending will be significantly reduced again after outbreaks are contained. This is a choice made to put people’s lives over short-term economic interests.

One hundred million Americans are currently in debt due to healthcare costs; one in seven people say that they have been denied access to a hospital or other medical facilities because of unpaid bills; and two in three people have stopped treatment because of the cost.47 The complete dominance of capitalist private property rights and the constant curtailment of public goods in the U.S. political system have given Big Pharma a staggering $10 billion increase in revenues, profits, and assets. Pfizer is on track to become a juggernaut with a $100 billion market cap by 2022, with sales of $53.9 billion just for its two major COVID-related drugs,48 and profit margins likely to reach more than 27%.49

The hypocrisy and degradation of the U.S. ruling class
U.S. politicians used outright lies to deceive their citizens, persuading workers that COVID-19 was not dangerous and they could return to work (and make money for the capitalists), when scientific facts relentlessly shattered the illusion of “coexistence with the virus” and the death toll remained high, proving that herd immunity was unachievable, at least in the short term. In March 2020, Trump claimed that warm weather and sunshine would kill the virus. And in April, the United States experienced its first rise in COVID mortality, with more than 2,000 deaths per day and nearly 100,000 deaths in two months. After receiving the best possible hospital care after being infected with COVID in October 2020, Trump made a full recovery and immediately tweeted “Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life.” In December, the United States saw a second spike in deaths from the pandemic, with over 240,000 deaths in three months.50 In May 2021, Biden called on those who had been vaccinated not to wear masks because “vaccination protects you from COVID”. During the Omicron outbreak in January 2022, the country’s daily death toll rose to 2,258, breaking the previous record set in February 2021.51 In late April, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor, said that America was already out of the COVID pandemic phase, when the country’s death toll had exceeded 1 million. Less than two months later, he was diagnosed with COVID.

The anti-vaccine and anti-mask movements in the United States have been driven by the depraved lies of government leaders (first Trump and then Biden) concerning COVID. The “rugged individualism” that has been pushed by the U.S. ruling class since the founding of the country is one of the ideological foundations upon which these movements are built. The myth of “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” which hides capitalist exploitation, is part of the foundation of the illusory “American Dream”. This narrative portrays evil capitalist slavery and the genocide of Native Americans by “brave pioneers” as the epitome of this “rugged individualism”, one of the pillars of the American Supremacy and Exceptionalism ideas, rather than despicable acts of greed and selfishness. Therefore, it is not surprising that a sizable proportion of the U.S. population objects to the idea of wearing masks or receiving vaccinations to prevent the spread of deadly viruses.

Today, U.S. capitalism, despite its enormous wealth, pollutes the air, poisons the water, murders black people, enforces religious homogenization in schools, burns books, commits mass murder of schoolchildren, and invades and dominates other countries, all under the guise of “freedom”. A customer at a grocery store in an LA suburb threw down her shopping basket and hurled insults at the staff who advised her to wear a mask. At a bagel shop in New York City, a woman walked up to another customer and deliberately coughed in the latter’s face. At a large department store in Flint, Michigan, a security guard was shot dead, just because he told a customer that her child needed to wear a mask inside the store. And who can forget Senator Rand Paul (a Republican from Kentucky) who wandered the Senate chamber and Senators’ gym without a mask the whole time he was waiting for his COVID test result, which turned out to be positive.

In August 2021, while 26,000 children in Florida were infected with COVID-19 in a single week, the state government issued an executive order banning schools from enforcing a student mask mandate. Arizona, Utah, Texas, and eight other states with Republican governors have also banned the mandatory wearing of masks in schools. Some states have even banned mandatory mask wearing in state-run organizations, and even in some private industries. Fourteen states have banned vaccination mandates. In other words, the rights of the individuals far outweigh those of the collective or the society.

The COVID pandemic has clearly demonstrated the moral decay of the U.S. ruling class who, unfortunately, has won the support of a sizable portion of the lower, middle, and working classes. Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick once said,52 “No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in”. Of course, Patrick is not the average working-class senior citizen who must ultimately pay with his life. Since the lieutenant governor has access to the best medical care due to his U.S.$25 million in cash holdings, Patrick recovered from his COVID infection after only a week of minor ailments. What type of society would be willing to sacrifice its senior citizens for wealth and power? A society whose time has come and should be long gone.

U.S. politicians and media outlets always criticize other countries for violating “human rights”. The most fundamental human right, however, is the right to live. The most compelling evidence for the fact that the U.S. government has no respect for human rights is the more than one million people living in the United States who have died of COVID-19. They are simply promoting false human rights–such as having a particular form of government, or access to Facebook–instead of the fundamental rights that humans require, like survival, food, healthcare, and education. As Dr. Paul Farmer, a public health expert who passed away in Rwanda in February, once argued, “Medicine should be viewed as social justice work in a world that is so sick and so riven by inequalities”. The extreme morbidity and inequalities in the United States are reflected in the cruel reality inflicted by the COVID pandemic in the country.

Socialist benevolent policy in China

In stark contrast to the situation in the United States, China has a tried-and-true “dynamic zero-COVID” policy to fight the disease. There is no perfect solution to an emerging pandemic, and each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. A pandemic prevention strategy must first be evaluated by whom it serves. COVID-19 has caused only 4 deaths per million in China (compared to 3,108 in the United States) as of June 27, 2022 53 notably proving that its policy prioritizes the lives of its citizens, especially the poor.

It takes a high level of scientific understanding of the rules governing virus transmission, a thorough comprehension of the limitations of predictive models, advanced statistical knowledge, the awareness of national conditions, the ability to assess prevention experiences, and to modify plans in real time to achieve such amazing results in the fight against complex mutated viruses. Mao Zedong eloquently described the dialectical relationship between the “great benevolent policy” and the “small benevolent policy”: the great benevolent policy must not be hindered by the concern for the small benevolent policy.54 Given that SARS-type viruses (COVID-19 and MERS are on this spectrum) can cause a significant number of fatalities, the dynamic zero-COVID policy can be described as a great benevolent policy.

A dynamic zero-COVID policy can only be successful if the people understand and respect science, give up individualistic thinking, and are prepared to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term benefit of themselves and others. It requires the people to have faith in their leaders and to use deliberate self-criticism as a way to grow and succeed. According to data from several research institutions, more than 90% of the Chinese people trust their government.5556 The fact that the Chinese people are far-sighted, have the capacity to sympathize with others in their pains and difficulties, and can take unselfish action, is the sign of an advanced civilization.

Science plays quite different roles under capitalist and socialist systems. The United States has proven to the rest of the world that, in a capitalist society, science is used to maximize profits, develop inconceivable levels and types of offensive nuclear and other military weapons, and spy on the communications and social media of most of the world’s population. For example, information from every Brazilian’s email and social media account is stored in enormous data centers in locations like Bluffdale, Utah, among other places.57 However, science is not being used to address the medical needs of poor patients or to help develop effective pandemic prevention strategies at the grassroots level.

Large monopolies purposefully impede the advancement of science as a defense mechanism to maintain their monopoly. Science is vilified and people are told lies, such as “global warming is fiction,” when the truth stands in the way of profits. To this day, 30% of Americans continue to reject the idea that human activity is the primary cause of global warming.58

In socialist China, science is respected, fostered, and most importantly, recognized as a servant in promoting the demands of the people and society, something that is reflected in the pandemic in many ways. One small illustration of how science serves the people is the establishment of a dynamic, nationwide network of digital health code platforms and the placement of small, mobile PCR testing kiosks in major cities, outfitted to protect medical personnel and make testing more convenient and faster.

Foreigners often fail to understand the details of how China completes these challenging duties. They regularly receive disinformation about the so-called “authoritarian government of China” from the Western media. They overlook the fact that President Xi’s reaffirmation of the mass line has revitalized 4 million grassroots Party organizations over the past ten years. These grassroots party organizations operate at the bottom of society, in every residential community. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has always attached great importance to improving the ideological and organizational capabilities of its cadres, increasing the connection between cadres and the masses, and creating effective communication channels. One of the greatest organizational feats of humankind is the system for organically managing and organizing food supply, quarantining and transporting the infected to hospitals, and regularly visiting the elderly on a scale of hundreds of millions of people.

The Western media has made a major claim that China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy has failed economically compared to the U.S. policy. However, economist John Ross noted that for the nine quarters between October 2019 and March 2022, China’s GDP increased by 11.5%, while U.S. GDP grew by only 2.8%, according to the global economic indicators’ website Trading Economics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. China’s economic growth was over four times faster than the U.S. during the pandemic. This comparison includes China’s worst quarter (Q1 2020, -10.5% GDP growth), and places like Wuhan and Shanghai who were most affected by the pandemic.

There are numerous factors that influence GDP growth. Not all areas of China experienced the same effects in the second quarter. Even though China’s overall growth rate may be lower in the second quarter of 2022, it will not have a significant impact on the full ten-quarter period that covers the Pandemic. Goldman Sachs analysts predict that China’s GDP growth will remain above 4% in 2022 and rise to 5.3% in 2023, despite the impact of the outbreaks in the second quarter. China’s GDP growth is estimated to reach 4.2 percent in 2022 by other investment banks like Citi, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley.59 By Western logic, it must be concluded that the U.S. policy of extreme tolerance for high mortality rates is the real destroyer of GDP growth.

Only nine new confirmed indigenous COVID cases were detected in the Chinese mainland as of June 20, 2022.60 This figure once again highlights the remarkable achievements of the CPC, the Chinese government, and the Chinese people in fighting against the pandemic.

Why is China smeared for its dynamic zero-COVID policy?

On April 12, Reuters reported that according to the Japanese investment bank Nomura, “as many as 45 cities in China are now implementing either full or partial lockdowns, making up 26.4% of the country’s population”.61 The original source of this data from Nomura could not be found. Then the Financial Times did a simple multiplication and claimed that “45 cities and 373mn people in China were under … lockdown”.62 First of all, this is an absurd number, not only because it has no source, but because, even if you add up the 45 most populous cities in China (the vast majority of which have not had any outbreaks so far this year), the total population is only 293 million.63 The Western media just made up the number of “373 million” based on unknown sources.

Moreover, the method of adding up the total population of cities that had some form of lockdown and claiming that all of them were under total lockdown is a clever and sinister manipulation of data. In most cities where outbreaks have occurred, the number of people actually under lockdown has been a small fraction of the total population and the duration of the lockdown has been relatively short. In Sichuan Province’s Guang’an City, which suffered an Omicron spillover from the outbreaks in Shanghai, for example, a lockdown took place in Linshui County, which only accounts for 21.7% of the city’s population, and lasted just 14 days. Data purportedly released by Nomura imply that the entire populations of these cities were under lockdown in the second quarter of 2022, clearly a huge deviation from the facts.

In fact, the Chinese government continues to learn and adjust its approaches when carrying out the zero-COVID policy. Even when a mega-city, like Beijing, was subjected to another round of strict control because of some pub’s non-compliance with the regulations, the outbreak was contained in less than 10 days, with only about 170 locations (most of which were single buildings) actually locked down. It was estimated that the total number of people under lockdown was no more than 200,000 (less than 1% of Beijing’s resident population). Most people throughout Beijing were still able to carry on with their work and life as normal. For a few weeks, gyms and restaurants were closed in some areas, but supermarkets and takeaway restaurants still secured food supplies. People are able to walk outdoors wearing masks. The Western media misrepresented all of this as “authoritarian lockdowns”.

Despite the obvious falsification and exaggeration of such figures, the Western media have accepted them with great satisfaction. Bloomberg,64 CNN,65 and Kyodo 66 all scrambled to quote the “373 million” figure, and it became “nearly 400 million” in the New York Times.67 When Quartz commented on China’s economy in May, their statement that “nearly 400 million people are under COVID lockdown in China” was used as if it was a fact that required no discussion.68 What followed was “People’s freedom of movement is being restricted in China” (even though American schoolchildren have lost almost three times as many class hours as in China); “China’s economy will be destroyed by lockdowns” (even though China’s economy has grown four times faster than the U.S. economy since 2020, and several U.S. investment banks predict that China’s economy will still grow faster than the U.S. economy), and a host of other lies.


This is a premeditated propaganda war against China’s dynamic zero-COVID policy, designed to discredit China’s socialist achievements in public health. These lies have been widely disseminated in the English-language media and social networks to make billions of people forget that America is so bad at controlling COVID-19 and think that the dynamic zero-COVID policy is wrong. This is cultural hegemony in Antonio Gramsci’s sense: through the manipulation of perceptions and interpretations, the U.S. ruling elite intends to perpetuate its dominance over the world.

Socialist alternatives for public health

The SARS pandemic of 2003 revealed a new trend in public health: as globalization deepens, the global pandemics of infectious diseases are bound to occur more and more frequently. The U.S. performance in the COVID pandemic has proven that a capitalist system that only cares about short-term economic interests and disregards people’s lives and health cannot cope with such a disaster as the outbreak of a pandemic. It sacrifices lives and loses economic development, and only a small group of the bourgeois elite benefit from it. The socialist system represented by China, on the other hand, points to a viable path for how humanity can respond to public health disasters in the future. Nearly-free, normalized universal testing, combined with the dynamic zero-COVID policy of early detection, reporting, isolation, and treatment, is not only effective for the prevention and control of COVID-19, but also provides a solution for the prevention and control of any new dangerous viruses that could emerge in the future.

Both the effective control of new pandemics at home and the rapid delivery of low-cost vaccines to the world’s poorest countries, has proven that Chinese socialism is advancing humanity’s ability to protect itself from future disasters. Over one million more lives lost in the United States thus far from COVID than in China, despite a U.S. population only a quarter the size of China’s, and a mortality rate hundreds-of-times greater in the former as compared with the latter, provide a graphic and sharp contrast, directly challenging the big lie of the “superiority of the capitalist system”. For Washington, which relies on the capitalist system to reap monstrous global rewards, this is a challenge that shakes its very foundations. Therefore, it launched a public opinion war against China’s anti-COVID policy, hiding the reality of its domestic failure to fight the virus, hoping to deceive the Chinese about the global anti-COVID situation, and even spark a “color revolution” in China against the government’s policy.

Although not all countries are able to implement an effective dynamic zero-COVID policy like China due to various objective constraints, China’s experience has shown the world that, in the face of a pandemic, especially when the virus is not fully understood in early stages, “herd immunity” or “coexistence with the virus” can neither be the best nor the only option. Developing countries can also do better than Western developed countries, such as the United States, as long as the people’s basic rights are prioritized over the short-term interests of capital. ... -and-lies/

68 Notes at link.
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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Wed Aug 31, 2022 2:48 pm

'Rigid'? 'Inflexible'? China's pandemic policy is changing
By Ian Goodrum | | Updated: 2022-08-31 09:23

A medical worker accompanies patients discharged from a makeshift hospital in Sanya, Hainan province, on Aug 21, 2022. [Photo by WU WEI/FOR CHINA DAILY]
There are a lot of words you get tired of hearing when following corporate media coverage of China. "Authoritarian", "draconian", "tyrannical", I could go on. After a while you start to tune them out, as they're the kinds of thought-terminating clichés serious people tend not to use.

But it's no-holds-barred when it comes to China's epidemic control measures. Since the first major COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, there has been a parade of bad-faith attacks on the country even from the most "respectable" outlets, who sensed an opportunity to parlay the spread of a deadly virus into forceful advocacy of an economic or political agenda. First China was being too harsh. Then, when it was obvious that response had worked, those same commentators clamored for full opening-up — right before the Delta and Omicron variants hit and reset pandemic clocks to 30 seconds before midnight.

To be sure, there have been ongoing challenges when it comes to containing Omicron and its newer, more virulent subvariants. After Shanghai's large-scale outbreak in March, smaller flare-ups have been underway in several places around the country, most notably in Hainan province and the Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions.

At time of writing, these appear to be mercifully on the downswing; daily case counts have been dropping and more areas have gone for longer periods without new infections, so the rapid response blueprint China has developed over the last few years is still proving effective. Even with this empirical evidence, however, criticisms continue and allegations of "rigid" and "inflexible" policy continue to fly.

But an honest appraisal of the facts shows this perception could not be further from the truth. In recent months it has gotten easier to enter the country, not harder. The changes have been coming quickly, and too numerous to lay out in great detail; I'll do my best to summarize them here.

For one, pre-flight testing requirements have been adjusted to two PCR readouts within 48 and 24 hours of departure, down from those two tests plus a rapid antigen test and a blood sample needing to be taken to check for antibodies.

As a result of that change, travelers no longer need to spend seven days in their city of departure to facilitate this extensive testing regime, and can show results from any two labs certified by the CLIA rather than a single approved list of facilities.

The quarantine period for international arrivals has been significantly reduced, now a cumulative 10 days compared to the previous 21. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region followed suit in August, dropping its seven days of hotel quarantine down to three.

Passengers can transit through countries on their way back to China, opening more alternative pathways at greatly reduced cost compared to the limited number of direct flights which operate each week.

The threshold for suspension of flights if positive cases are discovered has been recalibrated to be based on percentages of total passenger load rather than flat numbers, meaning a higher margin for "breaking the circuit" and fewer flights expected to be cancelled in the coming months. More flights have been steadily added to the schedule, increasing convenience and lowering prices.

Where domestic travel and other activities are concerned, the window for areas being closed-off during an outbreak has shrunk. It used to be that 14 days with no new cases was the norm for a high-risk area to be removed from the rolls of epidemiological no man's lands, but that has been reduced to seven. This was identical to the steps taken regarding a person's travel history, cutting in half the time when one's earlier presence in a high-risk area would mean temporary lockdown.

Many around the country breathed a sigh of relief when the "travel card" app which shows a person's travel history no longer displayed the dreaded asterisk, the telltale sign a user has been in the same city where cases have been discovered; the method for determining whether someone's code is yellow or red is now more granular and based on smaller geographic areas, reducing the overall risk of being swept up in an anti-pandemic dragnet.

And in what was a big breakthrough for many who had been eagerly hoping for such a change, just last week international students were given the green light to reenter China and continue their studies either through the use of existing residence permits or the application for new visas, which several embassies announced would be processed after a multi-year pause. This was welcome news to legions of young people, particularly in the Global South, who have looked to China as an opportunity to pursue higher education but had been locked out of the journey due to the pandemic.

Over the past year the trend could not be clearer: A slow, steady loosening of restrictions with few, if any, steps backward. China is learning from its experience and applying those lessons to its policy, which has been in a constant state of flux. Certainly this shift is happening slower than some would like — as mentioned, many direct flights are priced so high as to be out of reach for those without deep pockets or a treasure trove of frequent flyer miles — but it is happening nonetheless. As more tools become available to fight viral transmission and prevent those who do get infected from developing severe symptoms, the likelihood increases this trend will continue and intensify.

Sinopharm, the State-owned developer of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine that has been used around the world, expects to complete clinical trials on its Omicron-specific booster shot by next month. It is also in the first phase of clinical trials for an mRNA vaccine designed to combat the variant, which is now the planet's dominant strain.

On the treatment front, three separate antibody therapies from Sinopharm have entered trials, providing yet another avenue for those unfortunate enough to be infected. The domestic oral antiviral Azvudine was conditionally approved by China's drug regulator in July with a price tag of less than 300 yuan ($44) per bottle — even less with public insurance — and pharma giant Pfizer has teamed up with a local partner to distribute its oral treatment Paxlovid in the country. WHO approval has been granted for the manufacture of a generic version of the latter at less than $25 per course of treatment for low-income countries, and five Chinese companies were included in the 35 initially tapped for production.

This will ensure the affordability and accessibility of essential COVID-19 drugs for populations most in need, and continue to move the needle to the point where it is feasible for China to fully open up without the risk of mass death or the as yet unknown effects of a wave of "long COVID". The recent changes are a clear sign of a desire to return to normalcy sooner rather than later, but as China has been able to contain its local outbreaks while minimizing fatalities this must be done cautiously.

All that hard work and sacrifice would be lost by one miscalculation, but the "open 'er up" die-hards either aren't aware of this, or know and don't care — and neither proposition makes for compelling listening. ... 75215.html
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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Mon Jan 02, 2023 3:01 pm

Members of the medical team from Beijing’s China-Japan Friendship Hospital meet their family members after enjoying a two-week holiday following a successful mission in Wuhan, Hubei province, on April 22, 2020. Credit: “Capturing COVID-19 in photos,” China Daily, December 26, 2022.

A look back on three years of China’s anti-Covid-19 fight
By Tings Chak (Posted Jan 01, 2023)

Health, History, Inequality, Marxism, Political Economy, SocialismAmericas, Asia, China, United StatesCommentaryFeatured
I arrived in Shanghai, 36 hours after leaving São Paulo, a near deportation in South Africa, and a canceled connecting flight. It was March 21, 2020. In the following days, China implemented its mandatory centralized quarantine for all international travelers. Exactly a week later, on March 28, China started its travel ban1 to prevent the spread of a still little-known virus called Covid-19, which was making its way to all corners of the earth.

Nearly three years later, on the coming January 8, 20232, China will officially open its borders, remove the mandatory quarantine and nucleic acid tests for people entering the country, and downgrade the management of Covid-19 from Class A to Class B3. It is not an end of an era; rather, it is a continuation of a rigorous process of confronting a historic and global pandemic, while putting science and the people at its center. It has been an incredible experience to see how the Chinese government and people have taken on this pandemic, while the world has suffered4 6.68 million recorded deaths, with over 650 million people infected. The impact of this virus is one for the history books, the lasting effects to be studied for years to come, and the fight has not yet ended.

The Western mainstream media, however, has been quick to criticize China every step of the way, from the “draconian5” Zero-Covid strategy to the “dystopian6” measures to ensure a safe Winter Olympics games in Beijing, and now to the “nightmare7” of relaxing the country’s Covid-19 requirements. Rhetoric aside, what has the fight against the virus been like in China—characterized by the Zero-Covid strategy—and why are the relaxation measures happening now? It is important to look back at the last three years to understand how we arrived at this point today. Having lived in China throughout the ebbs and flows of the Covid-19 virus, I would categorize the country’s dynamic strategy into four key phases.

Phase 1: Emergency response (December 2019 to May 2020)

Two-and-a-half weeks after I arrived in China, on April 8, the country celebrated the end to the 76-day historic lockdown in Wuhan, where the pandemic first broke out and claimed the lives of 4,512 Chinese people8. It was an emotional and bittersweet victory for the entire country, which had mobilized its people and resources to fight a very deadly and never-before-seen virus.

On December 26, 2019, Dr. Zhang Jixian9, director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine of Hubei Province hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, saw an elderly couple that had a high fever and a cough—symptoms that characterize the flu. But further examination ruled out influenza A and B, mycoplasma, chlamydia, adenovirus, and SARS. She and her team then quickly determined there was a new virus at play. Three days later, the provincial authorities were alerted, then the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) and by December 31 the WHO was informed10. On New Year’s Day, the CDC officials called11 Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, while he was on vacation, to inform him of the severity of their findings.

On January 3, the virus was identified with its genetic sequence which was then shared12 with the world a week later. At this point, there were many unknowns—what the virus was, how it was transmitted, and how it could be stopped. There were no vaccines, while the country—and the world—was unprepared. A strict lockdown of the city of 11 million people began on January 23, and 41,000 medical workers13 were dispatched from across the country to Wuhan. Saving lives and studying this new virus were the main priorities in this phase.

Phase 2: Control and elimination (June 2020 to July 2021)

After Covid-19 had been successfully contained in Wuhan, and throughout the rest of 2020 and 2021, China implemented a Zero-Covid strategy, characterized by extensive measures to track, test, isolate, and treat infected people. The Chinese mainland recorded extremely few deaths14 in this period since the Wuhan outbreak, while successfully containing 11 outbreaks15 of the Delta variant, which is more transmissible and the cause of more serious infections. Meanwhile, the global reported death toll had climbed to over 5.4 million people16 by the end of 2021 with countless millions more infected.

Far from “failing17” as the Western media is claiming now, Zero-Covid worked extremely effectively. Since the pandemic broke, the average life expectancy of Chinese people actually increased from 77.318 to 78.219 years (2019-2021), surpassing the United States for the first time in history (Chart 1). In the U.S., however, the average life span dropped from 78.820 to 76.421 years during that same period, owing in large part to the high number of Covid-related deaths. This is particularly striking when you consider that China was the eleventh22 poorest country in the world in 1949 (measured by per capita PPP GDP) with a life expectancy of only 3623 versus 6824 for the U.S. This means that an average Chinese person’s lifespan more than doubled, whereas in the U.S., the average lifespan only grew by eight years in nearly eight decades.

Chart 1. Life expectancy in China and the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic

Life expectancy in China increased beyond that of the U.S. during the pandemic.

The U.S. has recorded 1.1 million deaths due to Covid-19. The cumulative U.S. death rate per one million people is currently 83425 times that of China (3,339 versus 4). In the case of the U.S. and China, the use of “excess-death” numbers—the difference between observed and expected mortality rates—is of little value for analysis purposes as both countries had relatively low numbers of these deaths in the last three years. If China had followed the reckless U.S. path, these figures indicate China would have suffered 4.8 million dead. Even a quick calculation reveals that China’s strategy indeed saved millions of lives.

While it was containing the virus, China was also intensely studying the virus and developing responses, inaugurating26 its first vaccine, Sinopharm, in December 2020, which was subsequently approved27 by the WHO for emergency use on May 7, 2021. By October of that year, according to a Nature study28, Chinese vaccines accounted for nearly half of the 7.3 billion doses delivered globally. Since then, China has approved29 eight vaccines, with 35 others undergoing clinical trials, donated30 328 million doses, pledged31 over US$100 million to the Covax global vaccine distribution program for Global South countries, and proposed32 that vaccines become a global public good.

Phase 3: Adaptation and preparation (August 2021—October 2022)

In August 2021, in response to the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, China adopted33 a new strategy called “Dynamic Zero-Covid.” It was designed to balance health, economic, and social needs and to minimize the impact of the epidemic on the economy, society, production, and the people’s everyday life.

There is no one-size-fits-all measure for a country of 1.4 billion people. During this third phase, guided by science, the country experimented with its prevention and implementation practices. Mass testing was developed to high levels of efficiency, in which Guangzhou34’s 18 million inhabitants could be tested a mere three days, while the cost of pooling PCR tests (ten samples per test tube and taking advantage of low infection rates) were reduced to merely 3.5 yuan35 (US$0.50) per person. The country developed a nation-wide digital travel code and city-level “green code” cellphone applications36 to track Covid cases and those who have visited high-risk areas. All the while, the government moved towards more targeted measures to limit the use of large-scale lockdowns. During the Shanghai outbreak, for example, residential communities were classified37 into “lockdown,” “controlled,” or “precautionary” zones based on their risk level to try to minimize the interruption of daily and economic life.

Between January 2020 and mid-April 2022, China had spent38 an estimated US$45.1 billion to provide 11.5 billion free PCR testing for its residents. The costs of this mass testing strategy, however, were also mounting, with estimates reaching 1.8 percent39 of the country’s GDP and putting pressure especially on local government budgets. Despite the economic pressures, rather than “crippling40” China’s economy, the country’s GDP grew nearly four times faster than the U.S. and five times compared to the EU, from the start of the pandemic to Q3 of 2022.41

Despite being the second largest economy, China is still a developing country. The pandemic strained the country’s medical system, which was lacking in several key areas. Accordingly, China used the last three years to begin to fill in those gaps, primarily through increasing its intensive care unit (ICU) capacity. In 2019, China had only 3.6 ICU per 100,000 residents42, which was nine times less than the U.S. with 34.7 units. Since 2019, China increased43 its supply of ICU beds 2.4-fold (57,160 in December 2019 to 138,800 in December 2022). In the same period, ICU doctors and nurses44 increased by one-third and doubled, respectively.

On January 15, 2022, China had its first case of locally transmitted Omicron infection. On April 18, 2022, Shanghai announced45 its first three Covid-related deaths, all unvaccinated elderly people aged over 89 years. At the time of the Shanghai outbreak, while 87 percent46 of the country were already fully vaccinated, that number dropped to only 62 percent47 for the city’s 3.6 million elderly aged over 60, with 38 percent having received booster shots. The country knew that this vulnerable sector of the population had to be protected.

Significant efforts have since been made to increase vaccination of the elderly. The official National Health Commission reported48 that on November 30, 2022, the breakdown of vaccination rates for people aged over 80 years are as follows: 76.6 percent at least one shot, 65.8 percent two shots or more, and 40 percent three or more doses. Despite the lower mortality rates of the Omicron variant, its highly contagious nature posed serious challenges to the country’s existing prevention and control measures, while putting great strains on the economy. Even two doses49 of so-called advanced Western mRNA vaccines like Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine or Moderna’s similar mRNA vaccine provide only about 30 percent protection against symptomatic infection from Omicron for about four months.

Phase 4: Downgrading severity and easing controls (November 2022 to present)

As Omicron began to spread, comparisons50 showed that the risk of death when infected with Omicron BA.2 was less than half that of Delta. One Chinese scientific study51 on mice showed that the new Covid-19 strains had 100 times lower virus load than the original, but was highly transmissible. China knew it needed to adjust its policies with the shifting nature of the virus, but with some important considerations.

On November 11, the central government released its “20 measures”52 to begin to relax its Zero-Covid policies. This included reducing mandatory quarantine time for inbound flights, decreasing isolation times, promoting vaccination of elderly, and eliminating the use of mass testing. For a country of its size, any central government policy takes time and huge organizational capacity to be implemented at the local scale.

The easing created initial confusion, and some people were upset with local community officials for not upholding the central government’s easing measures, frequently aired on Chinese social media platforms. Though there was frustration and exhaustion, it would be a mistake to believe that the downgrading phase was a response to the series of small, coordinated “white paper protests” that occurred after an Urumqi apartment fire that claimed the ten lives on November 24. Not only did the protests occur two weeks after the government began relaxing its Covid measures, but they were also not representative of the Chinese public opinion at large. The government easing also sparked another concern, with many people worried about getting infected. Several Weibo social media users53 expressed anger and criticism of the protesters, seeing them as irresponsible, middle-class youth who wanted their personal liberties at a collective expense. Unlike the blanketing Western media portrayals, Chinese people do not have a singular voice.

On Monday December 26, China announced54 it will downgrade the management of Covid-19 from Class A to Class B of infectious diseases on January 8, 2023. The three main reasons for this change include the fact that Omicron is not as virulent as Delta, a large percentage of the population had been vaccinated, and the country’s health system was better prepared. China uses a three-level system for the classification of infectious diseases, each delimiting specific response measures. Class A, the most dangerous, includes only cholera and the plague. Class B includes SARS, AIDS, and tuberculosis. Class C includes the flu and the mumps. Corresponding to this change, Covid-19 measures will be further relaxed.

Twelve55 main countermeasures were identified for the new Covid-19 policy corresponding to Class B control: 1) Increase vaccination rates; 2) prepare drugs and testing reagents for patients; 3) increase investment in construction of medical resources including ICU beds; 4) shift from mass PCR testing; 5) treat patients according to severity; 6) improve health survey and data, including vaccination status of those aged over 65 years; 7) control vulnerable population institutions, including elder care, hospitals, and schools; 8) strengthen prevention and control for rural areas and for high-risk patients; 9) increase epidemic monitoring, response, and control; 10) promote personal protection and the principle of everyone’s responsibility for their own health; 11) enable information access and education; and 12) optimize international personnel exchanges.

In a press conference56 of the State Council Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism, Dr. Yin Wenwu, Chief Physician of CDC’s Division of Infection Prevention, addressed the consequence of classifying Covid-19 as a Class B, which would reduce the frequency of the publication of data. The new data, which will be released monthly, will include the number of existing hospitalized cases and serious illnesses, including critical illnesses, and the cumulative number of deaths.

As expected, downgrading the severity of the virus’s management would also mean increasing the number of infections and related deaths. However, no single prediction model can be easily applied to China. Existing models for Covid-19 infection and mortality predictions have a wide range of outcomes. Forecast accuracy tends to decrease as prediction times increase, with models showing up to fivefold increase57 in error comparing one-week to 20-week horizons. Even the same Omicron variant has resulted in varied mortality rates in different countries. As of December 21, the U.S. seven-day rolling death rate58 was as high as 437 people, or a rate of 1.29 per million. Meanwhile, Japan had a comparable rate of 2.0 per million and New Zealand 0.85 per million.

Although China has now surpassed the life expectancy of the U.S., it has relatively fewer people 75 years and older than the U.S. (46 percent59 fewer as a percentage of the total population for each country). Omicron has had the impact that a massive 69 percent60 of all Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. in September 2022 were from this age group. The demographic difference in this age group, taken as a stand-alone factor, would imply an over 30 percent reduction in likely death rates for China.

Western media have been quick to use selective stories and photographs to create a broader image of the “chaotic61” situation in China, including alleging very high death rates. China, with a population of over 1.4 billion people, had over 27,00062 deaths per day prior to the Pandemic Using existing Omicron death rates from other countries would infer a possible 6 percent increase in death rates. These would be significant deaths, into the many tens of thousands, but there is no evidence yet provided that supports the millions that the West is speculating.

This downgrading phase is indeed complex and challenging, as doctors are working overtime with increase in cases, some hospitals are in full capacity, fever medicines have faced shortages, and winter-related ailments are adding complications. However, relaxing measures now means that China has used the last three years to try to prepare itself the best that it can by vaccinating the people, studying the virus, building medical infrastructure, training workers, and waiting until a much less deadly strain had emerged. It has also gained hard-earned experience that is essential to managing any future pandemic.

Steps being taken now

Not for lack of vaccines, there are several reasons for the relatively slow vaccination rates for China’s elders. Many of them63 had preconceived notions about vaccines or were worried about complications related to underlying health conditions, while the successful control of the virus disincentivized elders to get vaccinated. Comparatively, in the United States, only 36 percent of people 65 and older have received the updated shot, known as the bivalent booster64, according to data65 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. China, on the other hand, has consistently made efforts to convince, and not coerce, this vulnerable group to get vaccinated.

On November 29, the State Council’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism, adjusted the booster vaccination protocol, and required localities66 to extensively survey senior populations and ramp up services and awareness campaigns. Between December 1 and 13, 823,00067 of those over 80 years old received a third vaccine. China has created the world’s first commercially released inhaled vaccine68 for Covid-19: CanSino Biologics’ Convidecia Air, a non-replicated viral vector vaccine. This booster is already gaining popularity69 with the elderly.

Regarding the supply of medicines, some cities had shortages of fever medicines in the first weeks of December as cases increased. Hoarding, price-gouging, and the spike in demand were among the factors that contributed the supply shortage. In response, local governments started to distribute70 Ibuprofen for free, and Beijing residents, for example, can now get Ibuprofen and Paracetamol within an hour. China also passed a regulation71 on online pharmaceutical suppliers, that included penalties up to five million RMB (US$720,000) for pharmacies that increase prices according to speculative behavior. China has72 also made Pfizer’s Paxlovid oral antiviral treatment available.

Due to mass testing during phase three of the anti-pandemic fight, the government was able to obtain accurate data about the virus to inform its responses. As mass testing has been phased out in this current phase, some data precision will inevitably be foregone. However, China’s resilience is demonstrated in its ability to respond to new situations, applying technologies and science to evolve its public health system. For example, in the past two weeks, over ten provincial CDC’s, including in Sichuan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, have launched surveys73 with hundreds of thousands of participating citizens. This survey data, though limited by sampling methodology, provides an important reference for local and central authorities to monitor the path of the disease, and collect information including on important hospitals, availability of fever drugs, and response capacity of local governments.

On December 31, Hainan released74 the results of their second online survey (conducted December 19-25) filled in by about 3.4 percent of the province’s population. Below is one of the charts released (Chart 2).

Chart 2. Proportion of infected persons health care seeking behavior in the two rounds of survey population


China’s CDC continues to actively conduct real-time dynamic monitoring on Covid-19. From December 1 to 29, it had completed the whole genetic sequencing of 1,14275 cases through sampling survey. There are seven Omicron subvariants circulating, two of which, BA.5.2 and BF.7, account for more than 80 percent of all cases. BF.7 has greater immune escape ability, a shorter incubation period, and faster transmission. Guangzhou reported76 that 96 percent of people infected and tested had the BA5.2 variant, the symptoms of which are generally considered milder. There has been no reemergence of the Delta variant or other previous strains. However, the U.S. has conveniently used this moment to target visitors from China, requiring them to show negative Covid-19 tests to enter the country. Ironically, it was the U.S. that failed77 to prioritize Covid-19 variant surveillance in 2020.

Several prediction models have been published in the last week, including one by former CDC chief scientist of epidemiology Zeng Guang,78 states that the infection rate in Beijing may have exceeded 80 percent. These models also predict that the second wave is likely to be much milder and point to three factors behind the higher hospitalizations in the city: Beijing’s winter exacerbates respiratory symptoms among the elderly, Beijing is now listed as a moderately aging society (with 20 percent79 of the residents are above 60 years old, and the dominant80 BF.7 subvariant appears more virulent.

The government is paying close attention81 to the availability of medical resources, especially in the rural areas, in anticipation of the week-long spring festival starting January 21. China has increased daily production82 of antigen tests to 110 million units, along with 250,00 oximeters per day, and is prioritizing supply to rural areas. Rapid antigen tests cost as low as US$0.51 each on the e-commerce platform, Pinduoduo. In the rural areas where the medical infrastructure is less developed, the severity of the virus is not as bad as originally feared, according to online accounts83. Barefoot doctors84, a legacy of the Mao-era and sometimes pilloried by those seeking to privatize rural health, have been essential in providing care in rural eras despite having less resources than major city hospitals.

A look back at the last three years shows how difficult the pandemic has been for China and the world, testing the Chinese government’s capacity to confront such an unforeseen public health crisis as well as the people’s patience. In Beijing where I live, however, people are back and bundled in the streets, at work, and on the subways, with traffic and travel recovering. People are anxiously awaiting the spring festival, the most important holiday of the year. As we enter into a new year and a new era of fighting Covid-19—while anticipating the new viruses that will inevitably emerge—the hope is that the world can learn from these hard-earned lessons, act and cooperate using science, not rumors, and embody a spirit of international solidarity, not stigma.85

↩ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC, MFA News
↩ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PRC, MFA News
↩ Global Times, China to downgrade management of COVID-19 from Class A to Class B from January 8
↩ World Health Organization, WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard
↩ Bloomberg, China Hits Zero Covid Cases With a Month of Draconian Curbs
↩ Daily Mail and Reuters, Winter Olympics Dystopian Scenes Inside Beijing’s Closed-Loop Covid Quarantine
↩ The Washington Post, China’s new covid nightmare could become a global catastrophe
↩ CGTN, COVID-19 testing to be increased in China’s Wuhan after new case confirmed
↩ Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, China and CoronaShock
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↩ The New York Times, The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19
↩ World Health Organization, Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) SITUATION REPORT-1 JANUARY 21 2020
↩ China Daily, Entire nation mobilizes to help Wuhan
↩ Worldometer, COVID-19 Data in China
↩ China CDC Weekly, Eleven COVID-19 Outbreaks with Local Transmissions Caused by the Imported SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC—China
↩ Worldometer, Coronavirus Death Toll
↩ Consumer News and Business Channel, Here’s what lies ahead for China after zero-Covid failed
↩ National Health Commission, PRC, Statistical Bulletin of China’s Health Development in 2019
↩ National Health Commission, PRC, Statistical Bulletin of China’s Health Development in 2021
↩ National Center for Health Statistics of CDC, U.S. Life Expectancy Increased in 2019, Prior to the Pandemic
↩ National Center for Health Statistics of CDC, Mortality in the United States, 2021
↩ Asia Times, A history of China’s fight against poverty
↩ National Library of Medicine, Nutrition and health in China, 1949 to 1989
↩ National Center for Health Statistics of CDC, Mortality Trends in the United States, 1900–2018
↩ Worldometer, Reported Cases and Deaths by Country or Territory
↩ Contagion Live, China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 Vaccine Approved by WHO
↩ World Health Organization, WHO lists additional COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and issues interim policy recommendations
↩ Nature, China’s COVID vaccines have been crucial—now immunity is waning
↩ COVID19 Vaccine Tracker, 8 Vaccines Approved for Use in China
↩ Bridge of Global Health Strategy, China COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
↩ South China Morning Post, Xi Jinping says China promises 2 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to other countries in 2021
↩ China Daily, China’s vaccines are global public good
↩ China CDC Weekly, Perspectives: The Dynamic COVID-Zero Strategy in China
↩ South China Morning Post, Coronavirus: 18 million tests in three days as Guangzhou tries to stem spread in latest outbreak
↩ Caixin Global, China Further Slashes Price of a Covid-19 Test to $2.40
↩ The Paper, When will the health codes be interconnected?
↩ Global Times, Shanghai reports three COVID-19 related deaths due to underlying diseases for the first time amid the latest flare-up
↩ Caixin Global, In Depth: As Mass Covid Testing Becomes China’s New Normal, Debate Grows Over Who Pays
↩ Caixin Global, Will Regular Covid Testing Help or Hurt China’s Economy?
↩ Financial Times, How China’s lockdown policies are crippling the country’s economy
↩ This data was provided by British economist John Ross and is included in his upcoming article on Covid-19 and the Chinese economy.
↩ Global Times, China further focuses on severe COVID cases treatment with tiered medical services plan
↩ Yujian Finance and Economics, ICU beds increased 2.4 times in three years: our critical care supporting facilities have been racing against time
↩ Yujian Finance and Economics, ICU beds increased 2.4 times in three years: our critical care supporting facilities have been racing against time
↩ Global Times, Shanghai reports three COVID-19 related deaths due to underlying diseases for the first time amid the latest flare-up
↩ YCharts, China Coronavirus Full Vaccination Rate
↩ Global Times, Shanghai reports three deaths, all elderly, unvaccinated
↩ Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council, Work Plan for Strengthening COVID-19 Vaccination for the Elderly
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↩ Global Times, China optimizes anti-epidemic measures, shortens quarantine period for intl arrivals
↩ The Wall Street Journal, China’s Censors End Crackdown on Covid-Policy Criticism—of a Certain Kind
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↩ China Daily, Vaccination action plan to target elderly
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See link for numeration of references.
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Re: Socialist Demands for the COVID-19 Crisis

Post by blindpig » Mon Jan 30, 2023 3:22 pm

Undercover video about Pfizer vaccine process causes stir
By HENG WEILI in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-01-30 11:20

Photo taken on Aug 23, 2021 shows Pfizer signage at Pfizer's World Headquarters in New York, United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

A viral undercover interview has focused attention on the process that Pfizer Inc uses to update its COVID-19 vaccines.

The video of the interview, conducted by Project Veritas, a journalistic outlet known for undercover tactics, was published on Jan 25 on social media channels such as Twitter, where it had been viewed more than 25.8 million times as of Sunday evening.

It shows a conversation between an unidentified Project Veritas reporter and a Pfizer employee identified as Jordon Trishton Walker, director of research and development-strategic operations and mRNA scientific planning. Walker said later that he believed he was on a date with the person who interviewed him.

"One of the things we're exploring is like, why don't we just mutate it [COVID] ourselves so we could create — preemptively develop new vaccines, right? So, we have to do that. If we're going to do that, there's a risk of like, as you could imagine — no one wants to be having a pharma company mutating f------ viruses," the 5-minute, 31-second video shows Walker saying to the reporter at a New York City restaurant.

"Don't tell anyone. Promise you won't tell anyone. The way it [the experiment] would work is that we put the virus in monkeys, and we successively cause them to keep infecting each other, and we collect serial samples from them," he said.

"You have to be very controlled to make sure that this virus [COVID] that you mutate doesn't create something that just goes everywhere.

"From what I've heard is they [Pfizer scientists] are optimizing it, but they're going slow because everyone is very cautious — obviously they don't want to accelerate it too much," Walker said. "I think they are also just trying to do it as an exploratory thing because you obviously don't want to advertise that you are figuring out future mutations."

A second video shows Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe confronting Walker after the interview.

"You work for Pfizer," O'Keefe says, sitting down at a table across from Walker. "My question for you is why does Pfizer want to hide from the public the fact that they're mutating the COVID viruses?"

Walker becomes visibly upset and responds that he was "literally trying to impress a person on a date by lying".

"Why are you doing this to someone who's just working at a company to literally help the public?" Walker asks. He then made a call to the NYPD and is seen in a scuffle with the Project Veritas camera crew in an attempt to stop their recordings.

Walker's position at Pfizer is mostly involved with business development, according to the website, which posted a job description, and not vaccine processes.

On Friday, O'Keefe tweeted that YouTube had taken down the video, which at that point had 800,000 views.

The Project Veritas story has received scant coverage in US mainstream media despite the buzz it has generated.

Pfizer released a statement at 8 pm on Friday but did not mention the Project Veritas video or Walker's role at the company: "In the ongoing development of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer has not conducted gain of function or directed evolution research. Working with collaborators, we have conducted research where the original SARS-CoV-2 virus has been used to express the spike protein from new variants of concern.

"This work is undertaken once a new variant of concern has been identified by public health authorities. This research provides a way for us to rapidly assess the ability of an existing vaccine to induce antibodies that neutralize a newly identified variant of concern. We then make this data available through peer reviewed scientific journals and use it as one of the steps to determine whether a vaccine update is required."

The Pfizer statement, however, said that "in a limited number of cases when a full virus does not contain any known gain of function mutations, such virus may be engineered to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells".

The company added that "in vitro resistance selection experiments are undertaken in cells incubated with SARS-CoV-2 and nirmatrelvir in our secure Biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratory to assess whether the main protease can mutate to yield resistant strains of the virus".

Some Republicans in Congress are calling for an investigation of the New York-based pharmaceutical giant, alleging that it is engineering "mutations" of the coronavirus for future financial benefit.

US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who is a member of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, called for an investigation.

"The Pfizer caught on video discussing mutating the virus to change the vaccines & how Covid is a cash cow!" Greene tweeted Tuesday. "Pfizer took BILLIONS of federal [dollars]. Our Covid Select Subcommittee MUST investigate!"

Another member of the House COVID committee, Representative Ronny Jackson, a Texas Republican and former White House physician in the Obama and Trump administrations, called for an investigation.

"CLEAR YOUR CALENDAR @pfizer!" Jackson tweeted. "I'm sure the committee to investigate Covid will have questions on this!!"

On Thursday, Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, posted on Twitter: "Federal health agencies have been captured by Big Pharma and grossly derelict in their duties throughout the pandemic. It's time for Congress to thoroughly investigate vaccine manufacturers and the entire COVID vaccine approval process." ... abd0e.html
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