Is It Time for a Boston Tea Party for Vaccines?
On one night in December 1773, patriot activists disguised as Native Americans broke into Griffin’s Wharf in Boston Harbor, boarded three vessels loaded with tea owned by the British East India Company, and dumped it all overboard.
Now immortalized as the Boston Tea Party, this famous theft is celebrated today as a heroic act of resistance against the oppressive British government.
Usually forgotten in the story is Francis Rotch, an American merchant and co-owner of two of the ships invaded that night. Rotch had unwittingly agreed to ship crates containing the controversial tea from Britain. When he arrived in Boston, patriots prevented him from unloading the cargo and British authorities stopped him from leaving with it. In a conflict between crown and colonist, Rotch was squeezed between two sides.
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is stuck in a similar position today.
The company, The New York Times reports, is currently sitting on some 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in a warehouse in West Chester, Ohio, all vialed up and ready to go. Millions more unpackaged doses are being held at a Baltimore facility, the Times says.
Both clinical trials and the vaccine’s actual use in the 70 countries that have approved it tell us that this is a safe and effective way of preventing COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Millions of Americans would gladly take it.
Standing in the way of this mutually beneficial exchange is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for approving vaccines and has thus far refused to give AstraZeneca’s shots the green light.
Worse still, the Biden administration is forbidding the company from exporting its idle doses to countries that do allow their use, and which have worsening COVID-19 outbreaks of their own.
Much like the forgotten Rotch, AstraZeneca finds itself in possession of some very valuable cargo that can neither be offloaded nor exported.
That raises an interesting question: Would modern Americans be justified in following their revolutionary forebearers’ example and just stealing that shit?
For all its merits as an act of anti-monarchical, anti-monopoly resistance, the Boston Tea Party remains an act of theft—one that ultimately put a private party in its crosshairs. That’s something most libertarians wouldn’t support, except perhaps in the most extreme hypothetical circumstances.
Would equally energized citizens today be justified in forcing their way into that West Chester warehouse and absconding with 30 million doses of life-saving medicine? The heist itself would require a few dozen people willing to offer the AstraZeneca warehouse staff enough cash to look the other way, plus enough refrigerated trucks to carry everything away. Once boosted, there would likely be countless doctors, nurses, and pharmacists eager to help administer a vaccine we have every reason to think is safe and would be saving lives today but for a pathologically risk-averse federal government. And if Americans didn’t want to take it, our vaccine v
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