Revisiting Covid and the Malthusian trap

Revisiting Covid and the Malthusian trap Featured

FIVE years ago, in August of 2014, I first wrote about an epidemic, “Ebola virus: Is this the end of the world?” It was prescient as today’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has the same infectious footprint as the Ebola, the 1918 Spanish flu, 1957 to 1958 Asian flu, 1968 to 1969 Hong Kong flu and the 1981 HIV/AIDS. These five pandemics claimed 126 million lives. Prior to these were the Black Death of the bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages, which wiped out one-third of the earth’s population.

From the first known case in China, in less than a year, 63 million cases claimed 1.4 million lives, a 2.3-percent morbidity rate — a far cry from the European Black Death. Looking back, the world should have learned better, but it did not. Its institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) failed, leaving member countries fending for themselves. Countries that traditionally assumed global leadership in similar crises such as America did not measure up. Smaller countries with far better systems of governance — Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand, among others — fared better protecting their citizens and economies.

A vaccine against this virus has been dangled to the world since September. Big Pharma are all over themselves in a mad rush to be first in the market — no doubt cutting corners along the way as the prize would spell billions in revenues. The race has become highly political; Russia and China boastful of their own vaccines; as well as outlandish — a clinic in Zambales, Fabunan Antiviral Injection claiming a cure.

Vaccine’s promise
Leading scientists maintain that even with United States President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed (OWS), that kept on promising a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine before the November 3 elections, these may not come out this year. Trump has been moving the goal posts since September, tantalizing voters driven by his own personal political dynamics. With Trump still in denial as to his election loss, the supply chain that needed to be set up awaiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine approval may be in jeopardy. It is imperative for the incoming Biden administration to have a handle on the situation, grab the bull by the horns and land on its feet running by January 20 next year before Trump’s negligence causes another 50,000 to 100,000 deaths. With just 4 percent of the globe’s population, America’s Covid deaths disproportionately comprise 19 percent.

There are currently 150 coronavirus vaccines under development across the globe, but only a few are players. The vaccine could cost Big Pharma billions and the market is too huge for one company.

Multinationals may have to band together to segment the market – for after all, dispensing global health is still big business. By the end of the year, vaccines from different companies with differing degrees of potency are slated to be introduced into the global market. Among the leading ones are AstraZeneca (United Kingdom-Sweden), Pfizer-BioNTech (US-Germany), Sinovac (China), Moderna Therapeutics (US), Sputnik V (Russia), Bharat Biotech (India), Novavax (US), etc.

With huge global profits propelling cut-throat competition, the efficacy of the vaccine may not take precedence and therefore they are highly dubious. The normal number of years to develop vaccines for distribution and safe use was 10 to15 years. Reportedly, the fastest was the vaccine for mumps (paramyxovirus) that required four years in the 1960s. Through Trump’s OWS initiatives, at best 300 million doses of vaccine will be available early next year at a final cost to the consumer of between $4 to $20 per dose. “The World Health Organization is also coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine, with an eye toward delivering two billion doses by end of 2021.” (Amy Mckeever, National Geographic, Nov. 23, 2020.) But does the world have the resources to thwart the pandemic?

Global wealth and poverty
The latest World Bank data on wealth and poverty thresholds are dismal. The richest 1 percent now owns half of the world’s wealth. Of the 7.655 billion inhabitants, two-thirds (5.10 billion) live on $10 a day. But below these are still the 10 percent (765 million) living on $1 a day, “the poorest in the world (who) are often hungry, have much less access to education, regularly have no light at night, and suffer from much poorer health.” (Global Poverty, World Bank Data.) These two-thirds can ill-afford the vaccine.

It is quite obvious then that with America’s wealth, the 300 million doses may solely be for its citizens; likewise, other wealthy countries that can afford the vaccines — Russia’s 150 million, China’s 1.4 billion, the European Union’s 446 million and Japan’s 126 million. But India may have a problem covering its 1.3 billion population. And this goes for the rest of the world’s destitute.

The WHO’s 2 billion doses by end of 2021 is nowhere enough to cover the 7.655 billion souls in the planet. Meantime a few more millions will be infected and die. At this point, an enigma: Who gets to benefit from this vaccine first? Who gets to play God?

A contrarian view
There is a bold contrarian view proposed to help shape the global debate. I introduced in one of my articles a hypothesis of an 18th century philosopher, Thomas Malthus, whose writings centered on world population and its capacity to consume the earth’s resources. Malthus postulates that population grows geometrically while world food production only arithmetically — eventually, more mouths will need more of earth’s resources, so that population growth at some point will outstrip food supply and famine and deprivation reigns.

Along with overpopulation, was the world’s industrialization that has gone berserk causing deep disparity in wealth accumulation and resource utilization. The use of fossil fuels became the main impetus for the industrial revolution of 1760 to 1820. Majority of scientists now declare this as causing air, water and environmental pollution and global warming — pushing inexorably towards the planet’s death. Thus, this deadly permutation of overpopulation, unmitigated poverty and the Covid-19 scourge have merged to take center stage.

Mother nature has a way to correct imbalances– thus perhaps the series of pandemics intermittently visiting planet earth over the millennia. Human extinction is unthinkable. So true, but this might not be Mother Nature’s intention to wipe out the entire human race. We are his best creation, the predator on top of the food chain. She will not destroy her “obra maestra” but perhaps just occasionally warn us, humans, that we are responsible for ourselves – for each other and our environment. She may just tolerate sanctions towards the planet’s continued existence. Depopulation!

A case for depopulation
I rephrase what I wrote: “There are two ways to reduce the earth’s population. One by nuclear holocaust with the ensuing collapse of the world’s economy with the resultant possible annihilation of the human species. War is too messy, and nobody wins. The efficient method is by attrition, depopulation spaced over time so as not to inflict too much trauma to the world’s economy. Covid-19 is presumably re-engineered to eliminate the elderly with pre-existing health vulnerabilities.” (“Covid-19 conspiracy theories,” The Manila Times, April 1, 2020.) And other age groups too.

To the conundrum: “Who gets to benefit from the vaccine first? Who gets to play God?”

Why, the 1 percent of course and whomever they decide to help of the remaining one-third of the world’s population!

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Read 215 times Last modified on Wednesday, 02 December 2020 11:59
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