Should Leftists and Progressives trust Pfizer and Big Pharma?

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Josh Kaye

Josh is the main author of Northern Currents – A Leftist perspective on Canadian politics. Josh is an electrician of 10 years and has been interested in radical politics for even longer. Follow on Twitter at @ncjoshkaye.

Like most articles with a headline posed as a question, the answer is no. Pfizer and other Big Pharma companies are classic examples of everything that is wrong with our global, corporate, new world order. While this is true, we should make the distinction between these large corporations and the scientific community as a whole.

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There has been no shortage of controversy over supposed “Leftists” such as Jimmy Dore promoting all sorts of explicit anti-vaccine and covid-denying propaganda. The result of this is a small portion of Leftists parroting these propagandistic talking points, making themselves appear no different than far-right PPC supporters.

These Leftists may as well join the conspiracy caucus of the federal Conservative party, whose supporters have an all-to-friendly relationship with conspiracists. While their intentions – skepticism of corporate and government power – may be honourable, they are simply displaying their lack of understanding of how science works.

Skepticism vs Denialism

On the one hand, corporations such as Pfizer do have a terrible track record of choosing corporate profit over human life. Pfizer has a history of illegal marketing of drugs such as gabapentin, valdecoxib, sirolimus, Geodon, and Lyrica. They have a history of suppressing internal whistleblowers. About 500 people died because of defective heart valves they produced.

During an outbreak of measles, cholera, and bacterial meningitis occurring in Nigeria, Pfizer was also accused of “using the outbreak to perform unapproved human testing, as well as allegedly under-dosing a control group being treated with traditional antibiotics in order to skew the results of the trial in favor of Trovan. Nigerian medical personnel, as well as at least one Pfizer physician, said the trial was conducted without regulatory approval.”

All this information is freely available for the public to see on Pfizer’s Wikipedia page. It is as damning as it sounds, people needlessly died or were injured due to corporate negligence and the pursuit of profit.


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On the other hand, it would be a mistake to conclude that because Pfizer committed horrible acts in the past, that they are currently doing the same with the Covid-19 vaccines. This is simply fallacious reasoning. Pfizer also has a plethora of more commonly used medications listed on its website such as Advil, Chapstick, and Robitussin that haven’t had any controversy surrounding their use.

A healthy mistrust of large corporations is always a good thing, but if taken too far, one will find themselves deviating into the realm of conspiracy very quickly. Our criticisms must be evidence-based.

More crucially, this left-anti-vaccine crowd misses the broader structure of quality control in the scientific community. We all understand (or should at this point) how peer-review works. Pfizer did the clinical trial for their vaccine which was then peer-reviewed by the journal.

Once published, the results are made available to the entire scientific community to scrutinize and analyze. This process of community scrutiny often leads to retractions of studies that prove to be incorrect or fraudulent. This same process has led to Ivermectin studies being retracted. Thus far, nobody has found any issues with the vaccine data.

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Real-world data has also confirmed the safety and efficacy of vaccines in every country they have been made available to the masses. Vaccine mandates are working and are the key to ending this pandemic.

More recently, covid-denialists have trotted out one BMJ article of a supposed whistleblower exposing “falsified data, unblinded patients, employed inadequately trained vaccinations, and [slow follow up] on adverse events reported in Pfizer’s pivotal phase III trial.” These claims have been shown to be lacking in evidence and important details, and are a fraction of the study.

So what do we as Leftists make of all this?

The Left has always had a strong tradition of emphasizing the importance of science and empirical understanding of the world. Remember that foundational socialists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels considered their approach to economics as “scientific socialism.” Marx himself admired the scientific advances made possible by Capitalism:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

Manifesto of the Communist Party

As Leftists, we should not dismiss the labour of the workers of these pharmaceutical companies. Years, even decades of research, testing, education, and development of these vaccines would not be possible without these essential workers. Of course, this is all in the context of an economy driven by profit and capital accumulation which is less than ideal. It’s not the science we want, it’s the science we get.

Under capitalism, large private corporations monopolize and privatize scientific inquiry. We should be pushing for the nationalization of big pharma and medical production – with democratic control. What we should not do is dismiss the global scientific consensus that Covid-19 is a serious problem, and that vaccines are essential in fixing this problem and saving lives. We should not align with conspiracists, conservatives, or fascists. This shouldn’t be a controversial opinion!

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