The fear arrived in February 2020 and has remained in one form or the other ever since. Remained? It puts its feet up on the coffee table and hogs the comforter so I can’t sleep. The mask, distancing and hand sanitizer are gone. Always the dead. Today, there are 86,000 new infections. It must have been Wednesday.
I’ve been quietly waiting to get sick for 20 months now. Waiting for the right time to get sick is like that moment when your balance slips on a patch ice and you hover for a second before falling into a fumbling heap. I have been deeply fortunate, though; I’ve never experienced a healthier passage of time. The masks thwarted cold and flu season last year but good, and I haven’t had so much as a sniffle. But, there has always been the waiting. To get sick or to lose a family member. God save me, my sunshine dream daughter, eight years of age.
Just before 2:00pm yesterday, the phone rang. The screen displayed the name and address of her school. As I answered, the elevator in my stomach rumbled into the basement. It was the nurse. No, your daughter is fine, but we’re calling everyone because two students in her class have tested positive for COVID, which means she was in “close contact.”
We have lost cabin pressure in order to get a call from Chuck Palahniuk. The call is coming in from the inside of the house. You can use whatever exclamation point you like, but this was the moment. I had finally fallen on the frozen ice. It wasn’t me. My little girl. I had prepared for this possibility a thousand times in my head, like a 1950s Cold War dad making nuclear war drills with his family in his bomb shelter. But in that second, panic set in. A stranger might have thought that I had spiders crawling under my skin. Corpse white, no breath … dear God, what do I do now?
The phone call continued as if nothing had occurred. The nurse informed me that your daughter is fine. She also said that she has no symptoms. It’s the antigen test and not the PCR test, so it’s only a snapshot of the moment, but we can test her as often as you like. Best thing to do now is keep her masked and watch for symptoms, but the fact that she’s been vaccinated once is the best possible news.
That’s right, I thought as my brain reactivated itself like a rebooted modem, the tests. Wait, what about the shots? All of us have our vaccine shots and I have the oddly simple cards to prove it. They took us less than three hours to get, and they were my three best hours.
The entire world needs to experience that feeling of relief. Everyone needs to feel that sense of safety — or at least to have the easy option of feeling that safety presented to them — because sharing it is the human thing to do.
This is because capitalism does not allow for this to be the case at the moment. Truthout’s Mike Ludwig explains:
As debate over a proposal to temporarily waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines and treatments continues to stall at the World Trade Organization (WTO), members that remain opposed — including the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the European Union — are increasingly being accused of violating human rights on an international scale.
With the Omicron variant being identified in South Africa, calls for the WTO’s approval of the TRIPS waiver for vaccine patents or manufacturing technology are at fever pitch. Omicron has caused travel bans around the world and inflamed tensions about massive global disparities regarding vaccine access. Experts and advocates have warned for months that Omicron would allow the virus’ spread from lower-income countries, where vaccines are still out of reach for most people.
Moderna and other pharmaceutical companies are not sharing “recipes”COVID vaccines in collaboration with a South African biotech company and a World Health Organization effort to transfer technology necessary to make mRNA vaccines for African nations. only about 1 in 10 peopleHave received at least one dose. In the United States and Europe, monopolies on the crucial technology and know-how needed to make vaccines largely remains controlled by private pharmaceutical companies that received billions of dollars from wealthy governments to develop vaccines — and are now pulling in billions in global profit.
Way, way down at the core of my progressive beliefs is a box labeled “Enlightened Self-Interest.” I do not hew to progressive causes and advocate for progressive policies solely because I am a gleaming ball of happy light. Sometimes, but more often than not, I do it because I believe helping others rise above the chaos of fear, greed, hate, capitalism, and capitalism helps me.
Example: I want every child to get a zillion-dollar education for free not just because I love books and learning, but because education is the wooden stake to the vampire of ignorance, and the less ignorance there is, the better my life — all our lives — will be. This is self-interest based on enlightenment. Make no mistake, buddy-roo: I’m in this for me and my kid first. You can join me on the ride and watch as we all get better.
It’s amazing to witness the sheer speed at which these corporate drug-peddlers flee for their own enlightened self interests. If Moderna and Pfizer stopped chasing a buck around the block and used their already-galactic financial resources to crush this thing globally, they’d win near-universal praise. It’s actually easier for the Ivy League MBAs to keep it simple because they believe this way of operating makes long term sense. Who’s going to buy your shit if everyone is dead or in hiding?
Ironically, this kind of capitalism is only logical if you view it as a virus. You invade a host, burn its resources, then find another host. Then, you die. COVID would get this thinking immediately if it had a brain, and there’s the rub. These massive corporate drug companies are practicing nothing less than vaccine apartheid, another crime against humanity — all of humanity — for profit. A number can be a number if one is enlightened.
It’s time for the WTO to approve the TRIPS waiver for vaccine patents — to do the human thing, for the betterment of us all.
Everyone should feel what I feel today. I’m still afraid, because COVID is a monster and the variants are coming, but I slipped on the ice and didn’t fall. After almost two years of this slow-grinding hell, everyone deserves to know what it’s like to be able to worry just a little bit less.