Summary of discussion
Astra Zeneca in India had been granted a license to manufacture Covid vaccines at cost price [this was pre-the current surge in India’s own Covid cases], though there are questions about how available these will be to those who cannot afford to pay. The UK has ordered 400 million doses of vaccine, with the surplus (above what is needed to vaccinate the UK population) to be donated worldwide. Large orders have given AstraZeneca India the financial stability to produce at cost price (and one Indian multi-billionaire has taken a chance investment in this).
Usually pharmaceutical companies pay little attention to vaccines, because they are much less profitable than other medicines- it took 16 years to develop a vaccine for Ebola (perhaps because that did not affect wealthy countries?). But research is often government-funded, and there are strong arguments for making pharmaceutical companies public utilities (at least for some parts of their work- eg preventative medicine).
The World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative is encouraging people to donate to make vaccines more available to poorer countries- £30 the cost of an individual dose, £45 for transport of over 1500 doses.
Russia is singing the praises of their own Sputnik vaccine, but there seems to be little evidence of a vaccination programme in Russia itself. Governments want to tell a positive story- including our own in the aftermath of Brexit, and the failure of the Test-Track-Trace programme.
The Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report, which was published at the end of March, appears to be questioning the existence of “institutional racism”, and arguing that disparities are mainly the result of other factors (or is it simply saying that other factors are also important alongside the impact of racism?). What seems to be forgotten is the conclusion of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report that “institutional racism” includes situations where an organisation discriminates against racial groups, whether intentionally or not. Such racism needs to be named for what it is, before it can be tackled. And we need to be clear that institutional racism is part of the make-up of British society (for many historical and present-day reasons)- it is not only “wicked” people who can act in a racist way.
The Group of Seven (G7) meeting in Cornwall from 11th to 13th June this year will need to prepare for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) at Glasgow from 1st to 12th November this year. The UK’s and Europe’s oil consumption is the lowest since the 1960s, mainly because manufacturing industry has gone overseas, and we have concentrated on financial management and services. China’s consumption is high, because this is where much of the manufacturing (which we import) has gone. Perhaps the assessment of countries’ contribution to global warming needs to take that into account.
Our reading was the account of the trial of Jesus before Pilate (Luke 23:1 to 25), where Jesus is accused by the Jerusalem Council of “perverting our nation”, whereas in fact it was they who were perverting the people, in the way governments today often do by twisting the truth for political expediency. Pilate seems to want to avoid executing Jesus, perhaps because he recognised that Jesus was not planning to lead a violent rebellion. But the irony is that in fact the Romans would find it far easier to deal with people like Barabbas than to counter the profound revolution Jesus was bringing.