Covid 19 And The Failure Of Individualism

According to Brazilian scientist Lucia Souto, vaccine inequalities and science denialism – two results of neoliberal individualism – are derailing humanity.

by Rede Brasil Atual

In an interview on Radio Brasil Atual, Dr. Lucia Souto, President of the Brazilian Center for Health Studies (CEBES) and research scientist at Fiocruz Institute, said the only way for the World to overcome the current health crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic is through a sense of the collective. Faced with the inequality of vaccination between rich and poor countries and the denialism of part of the population, she said, humanity is witnessing the failure of the neoliberal project that promotes individualism.

Dr. Souto recalled how former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used to say that individualism – the fuel of neoliberalism – would lead the World. In contrast, she cited a recent editorial by former Uruguayan president José Mujica, for Deutsche Welle , calling 2021 the “year of failure” because rich countries seemed to fail to comprehend that the pandemic is global, and therefore it is necessary to vaccinate everyone equally, including those in the world’s poorest countries.

“The neoliberal project, which only considers money, has failed,” said Souto. “40 years ago Margaret Thatcher said that we had reached the end of the age of societies and the entered age of the individual. In the context of a pandemic like the one we are currently facing, this is absolutely absurd. As Mujica says, either we will develop a collective exit strategy or humanity will fail.”

Vaccination and the individualist concept of freedom

Several Brazilian cities have begun requiring proof of immunization, which conservatives refer to as “vaccine passports”, to enter events and establishments .  President Jair Bolsonaro and his cronies criticize the measures, saying they limit the “freedom” of those who choose not to be vaccinated. According to Souto, the only solution to the pandemic is collective and there is no room for the “false freedom” of science denialists.

“True freedom is based on the interests of the community, the collective,” she said. “In the middle of worst pandemic we have faced in a century, why not implement proof of vaccine requirements? It’s the least society can do.”

Last Friday Fiocruz Institute President Nísia Trindade, said that they have  the productive capacity to manufacture and donate doses of covid-19 vaccine to countries that still have low rates of immunization. Souto praised this as an important measure to guarantee vaccination equity in the world. “In Brazil, we have a high vaccination rate, but there is no solution by looking at countries individually. The solution to this crisis will come through vaccine equity. That’s why Fiocruz’s measure is extremely important. Vaccination inequality is the result of an economic model that does not consider health as a common good,” she said.

This article was translated from Portuguese by Brian Mier and can be seen in its original format, at Rede Brasil Atual, here.