The numbers are staggering.
In the two-year period from the start of the coronavirus pandemic in January 2020 through December 2021, the World Health Organization estimates that 15 million people have died from COVID-19 globally. WHO officials admit that in several countries, actual death totals are much higher than officially reported.
WHO numbers include people who died as a result of COVID-19’s impact on overwhelmed health care systems — people needing other medical treatments but unable to access care. Most of the deaths were in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas, where the U.S. accounts for 1,020,854 and Brazil 663,567 as of May 2.
In China, with a population of 1.402 billion people — four times greater than the U.S. — WHO reported 5,092 deaths. Yet because of its unrelenting, interventionist approach to COVID-19 containment, China has actually been the target of heavy criticism and scorn from Western media pundits — spokespeople for the capitalists who ignore the sobering death tolls, so business can get “back to normal.”
Most COVID-19 deaths have occurred despite advances of modern medicine, including vaccines. Unable to gain access to vaccines available in the U.S. and other Western countries, many low-income countries have fully vaccinated less than 2% of their population.
Meanwhile, the big pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna made a combined pre-tax profit of $34 billion in 2021, according to the Peoples Vaccine Alliance. Despite these companies receiving over $8 billion in public funding for vaccine development, less than 1% of the vaccines they produced were made available to low-income countries.
The pandemic is far from over, with new cases rising steeply and hospitalizations increasing in many U.S. states. Scientists predict case numbers are undercounted, because more people who test positive at home don’t report their infections.
Health experts warn of a coming wave from the new BA.2 variant of the coronavirus, thought to be 30% more contagious than omicron.
Yet public funding to pay for the basic means of protecting people during the pandemic — medications, vaccines, testing and reimbursement for care — has seemingly dried up.
Money is available related to the COVID-19 crisis. Many states will get another round from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan funds in May. However, this money is slated for infrastructure “recovery” spending — not COVID-19 prevention!
But left up to the discretion of state legislatures on how to allocate these funds, proposed projects range from cleaning contaminated water, boosting tourism and projects from highway construction, as proposed in Florida, to building new prisons as planned for Alabama.
Not one dime will go to preventing more COVID-19 deaths.
In April, Congress allocated $13.6 billion for the war in Ukraine. Biden recently requested an additional $33 billion — larger than the entire defense budgets of many countries. This money will pad the already exorbitant profits of major weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon.
The same legislators who readily vote for money for war balk when it comes to spending for health care in general and COVID-19 in particular. Why?
In allocating more funding for testing and treatment, the government is acknowledging that the pandemic has not “gone away.” This is exactly the opposite message from what U.S. corporations controlling Congress want to convey. Therein lies the dilemma.
More people will die — in the U.S. and globally — while capitalist politicians and pundits maintain their silence and refuse to open their moneybags for people’s health needs.
But China, Cuba and other socialist-based countries have proven that there is a viable option — that saving lives is possible.