Colombia is only now coming out of a huge third wave of COVID, with cases reaching the highest point on June 28th. This third wave of infections has seen the hospitals filled to the brim, and the healthcare system moving towards the edge of collapse. 

In response to this, President Iván Duque has devised a “companies for vaccination plan” in which businesses will be able to purchase vaccines from the government to be given out to their employees. 

This involvement of the private sector in the distribution of the vaccine allows for businesses to act as middlemen and assume liability, which was an issue that had previously prevented the vaccine producers from distributing them directly. 

World leaders have stuck to the slogan that ‘we’re all in this together’. In Colombia, the veil has slipped and the reality of capitalism is laid bare. 

Hunger Games

One of the companies that will be offering vaccines to their workers is Rappi. Rather than giving their employees the vaccine on the basis of age and vulnerability, they have decided to give their vaccines out based on who their best workers are. We can see here that we are not ‘all in this together’ but that workers are merely machines for profit.  

Rappi is an app which offers delivery of nearly every consumer good imaginable. For their CEO 2020 was a year of success. The strict lockdown meant considerable growth for the company, resulting in the estimated worth of around $3.5 billion. 

Despite the massive upsurge in revenue over the course of the pandemic prices have risen for clients; however, the money paid to employees per delivery has decreased, leaving workers to survive almost entirely on tips.

Rappi’s director of affairs, Juan Sebastián Rozo, announced that vaccines will be offered to just 5% of its workforce, with enough doses to fully vaccinate a mere 2,000 of their roughly 40,000 delivery workers in eligible cities.

This appallingly small proportion of people will be chosen from the employees who “deliver the most orders, spend the most time logged into the app and because of that are the most exposed.” 

Workers will be made to compete with one another in a bid to prove they are among the most hardworking employees and therefore win themselves one of the few available vaccines. This is a clear display of the capitalist view that people are only deserving of survival if they are willing to work themselves to the bone. 

Profit Motive

This ‘Hunger games’ like decision is the result of the government not introducing any guidelines on how the companies should handle the vaccine distribution. They have allowed individual businesses to decide who gets to be vaccinated and who doesn’t, based on any criteria that benefits the business.

The plan also disproportionately impacts Rappi’s migrant employees. One of the workers, Héctor Reyes, estimates that 80% of people who work for the company as, what the business terms, “collaborators” are Venezuelan migrants, many of whom lack official documentation or are irregular migrants, making them ineligible for the government provided vaccinations at the present time.

Rappi’s vaccination announcement raised an outcry from the public in Colombia, with many people taking to social media to describe the idea as “macabre”, “dystopian” and a “cynical attempt at using a crisis to improve productivity”. 

The reaction has caused the company to release yet another statement, backtracking somewhat. It has now been declared that the vaccines will go to the hardest workers historically, rather than asking workers to compete going forward. Ultimately, we see that capitalism, a system based on profit, cannot work for public benefit.  

Capitalism does nothing but hold back our fight against the coronavirus. This wretched system is unable to do what is necessary to put a stop to this health crisis.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been shown time and again just how urgent the need is for socialism, so that we can expropriate the enormous wealth from the hands of the capitalists and use it as part of a democratically planned economy to rid the world of the coronavirus and to preserve human life.

Leeds Marxist Society

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