Cuba-China cooperation leads to vaccine breakthrough

We’re pleased to re-publish this important article by Sara Flounders, posted in Workers World on 7 June 2022, about the progress made by a Cuban-Chinese cooperation project towards a universal coronavirus vaccine. Sara explains that these two socialist countries are far better positioned than their capitalist counterparts to work together on projects of long-term value to humanity, because their social systems are centered on meeting human need, as opposed to maximizing private profit. The article goes on to detail the outsized contribution made by China and Cuba to suppressing the pandemic in the developing world, as well as the ongoing and deepening cooperation between the two countries in a number of crucially important areas. Sara concludes: “The growing scientific cooperation of China and Cuba represents a hopeful future for humanity. Global problems can be solved. What is required is economic planning, cooperation and sharing of scientific knowledge and technology.”

Cuba and China formally announced June 2 that they have filed for joint patent for a Pan-Corona vaccine. The new vaccine, a collaboration between the biotechnological sectors of the two countries, is the first patent for a single vaccine effective against the many variants of COVID-19.

News of the jointly developed vaccine is particularly exciting because of the two countries’ cooperative approach in a field that is highly competitive, secretive and totally profit-oriented in Western capitalist countries.

Breakthrough in emerging virus protection

The Pan-Corona vaccine was announced to be effective against present variants of COVID-19 and thus of value in the current pandemic. 

But its strength is that it could also be effective against the appearance of new pathogens belonging to this family of viruses, noted Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the state-owned BioCubaFarma Business Group. (telesurenglish.net, June 3)

The Pan-Corona project is based in a joint biotechnological research and development center, operating since 2019 in the city of Yongzhou in Hunan province, and led by experts from Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB). Dr. Gerardo Guillén Nieto, the center’s director of Biomedical Research, explained the project arose at the request of the Chinese and had the approval of Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. The equipment and laboratories at the Yongzhou center were designed by Cuban scientific personnel. (Radio Havana Cuba, June 3)

The two countries focused on coronaviruses because of the global pandemic and because this is the family of viruses most likely to jump from animals to humans. This phenomenon, called zoonosis, was the cause of previous epidemics such as the 2002 SARS outbreak and the 2012 MERS infection — both serious respiratory illnesses. 

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Why China continues with its dynamic Zero Covid strategy

The following article from Global Times provides valuable insight into China’s strategy for suppressing the Covid-19 pandemic. Liang Wiannan, a renowned epidemiologist and one of the architects of the Zero Covid approach, outlines the expected consequences of the alternative “lying flat” or “living with the virus” strategy, which relies on gradually building passive/herd immunity. Although China’s overall vaccination rate is high, there is significant variation between regions and age groups. To “live with the virus” at this moment would result in severely stretched medical resources, and would pose a serious threat to patients with underlying diseases, children, seniors, and pregnant women. However, the article makes clear that, as understanding of the virus develops, health authorities are able to restrict the negative side-effects of the suppression strategy with the extensive use of nucleic acid testing.

Why won’t China adopt a “lying flat” strategy in face of Omicron like some Western countries do? Liang Wannian, head of the expert group in China’s epidemic response and disposal leading group, said that to passively respond to Omicron is not China’s option as the country still faces unbalanced medical resources. 

Adopting the dynamic zero-COVID strategy could be seen as “purchasing an insurance for 1.4 billion of Chinese people,” Liang said, noting that it helps avoiding large-scale transmissions and outbreaks, protecting people’s lives, effectively diminishing the loss of life expectancy per capita. 

In countries like the US, life expectancy declined dramatically in 2020 after being hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and continued to decline in 2021, these tragic data are seen as historically unusual drops for the US. 

Some countries chose the so-called “lying flat” strategy by living with the virus to gain herd immunity while China is getting immunity by vaccination, Liang said, noting that although 90 percent of population have been vaccinated, there have been unequal results in different ages and regions. 

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Deteriorating healthcare system reflects deep-rooted problems with US democracy

The following article by Carlos Martinez, first published in CGTN, describes the escalating healthcare crisis in the US, particularly the wave of maternity ward closures in low-income and remote areas. Carlos compares this with the universal public healthcare system in China, which continues to gain strength.

A recent Vox report notes that maternity wards throughout the United States have been closing down, a process that has been underway for several years but which has accelerated over the course of the pandemic.

Predictably, this wave of maternity ward closures has resulted in increased travel times for women in labor. There have even been reports of people having to give birth on the side of the road, unable to reach a medical facility in time. Such a situation is scandalous, particularly in one of the world’s richest countries and a country that considers itself a leading force of democracy and human advancement. And yet it is barely considered newsworthy to the Western media.

As is so often the case, low-income and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately impacted. This is a direct function of the private healthcare system in the U.S., which is driven by profits rather than the imperative of providing crucial services to the population. It is often not financially viable for hospitals to provide labor and delivery services in remote rural or low-income areas.

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What can the world learn from China’s response to Covid-19?

This short article by Jin-Ling Tang and Kamran Abbasi, republished from the British Medical Journal, provides a valuable summary of China’s successful strategy suppressing Covid-19. The authors note that while Zero Covid created certain short-term costs, the overall result has been far preferable to the alternative, given that China has reported only 0.05 percent of the total number of global cases despite making up 19 percent of the world’s population.

Old school public health and technology can allow aggressive containment to succeed

The combination of high transmissibility and moderate severity made SARS-CoV-2 a perfect pathogen for a perfect pandemic, unlike SARS, MERS, and flu. In two years, the covid-19 pandemic has swept the entire globe and caused over 250 million infections and five million deaths, despite unprecedented efforts to stop it.

China was the first country affected and held the world’s interest as it battled to understand and contain the new pathogen. But China has reported only 0.05% of the total number of global cases despite making up 19% of the world’s population. The question then is what can the world learn from China’s response to SARS-CoV-2? A new collection of articles written by people involved with that response attempts to shed light on China’s experiences and draw out lessons for the rest of the world (www.bmj.com/how-china-responded-to-covid-19). Indeed, China’s prevention and control strategies remain more aggressive than most other countries.

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Interview with the Editor of ‘Waiting for Dawn: 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines’

We are republishing this interview with Leijie Wei, editor of the book ‘Waiting for Dawn: 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines’ and academic at the School of Law, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China. It provides valuable insight into China’s public health system and the social, economic and political structures that allowed China to very quickly and effectively contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The interview was conducted by Shuoying Chen (Academy of Marxism, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), and was originally published in World Review of Political Economy, Volume 11, Number 4, Winter 2020. Republished with permission.


ABSTRACT

Waiting for Dawn: 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines takes a global perspective, examining the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on governments and the public around the world. The editor of the book believes that the reasons why mandatory tracking, testing and quarantine measures have been effectively implemented in China center on the unified leadership provided by the Communist Party of China (CPC); the active response by state-owned enterprises and institutions; and the full trust of the majority of the public in the government’s anti-pandemic measures. In an effort to win elections, meanwhile, politicians in Europe and the United States are politicizing the pandemic and making China a scapegoat. In contrast to socialist China’s policy of ensuring all those in need are hospitalized with free testing and treatment, the essentially capitalist public health models applied in most Western countries have brought more concrete and explicit class conflict, and the drawn-out pandemic in the West has exacerbated various forms of social injustice. The COVID-19 epidemic is a reminder that a country’s governance ability should not be judged on the basis of simplistic conceptions of democracy, and that the needs of Mother Earth must be considered in the collective building of a community of shared future for humankind.

Shuoying Chen (SC): To begin with, how did you come to the idea of producing a collection of diaries from different countries around the world?

Leijie Wei (LW): In 2020, China faced a very dangerous first few months, but through the efforts of the whole nation, it achieved an epic reversal. The global pandemic began in February when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) broke through the threshold of extraterritorial spread, and the world then fell gradually into the “darkest moment” of the pandemic. Since that time, we have had to rethink COVID-19 from a global rather than a local perspective, taking account especially of how other countries are different from or similar to China in terms of their experience of fighting the pandemic. With that in mind, I invited 21 contributors from 16 countries to document the lives during the pandemic of people around the world, recording what they have seen, heard, felt and understood during this period, with various narrative perspectives and in the form of diaries. Various pandemic diaries kept by Chinese people in quarantined cities, based on personal experience and with a strong literary flavor, undoubtedly have their value. Nevertheless, their unidimensional focus on a single area and lack of a multi-dimensional comparative perspective may lead to narrow and idiosyncratic accounts. This collection, entitled 21 Diaries from 16 COVID-19 Frontlines, covers 16 countries on four continents, including Asia, Europe, North America and South America. The authors are from various social backgrounds and differ in their social status. With its multi-dimensional and global perspective, the collection offers particular promise as a way of examining the impact of COVID-19 on different governments and populations, and as a history of everyday life in the age of the pandemic, it will also serve in future years as a first-hand account of this unforgettable experience.

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