GZERO Media Town Hall: Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic

GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.


Lynda Stuart on the politicization of the vaccine race

It's an absolute tragedy. Vaccine hesitancy at the best of times is a growing issue in the US and around the world, and politicizing it just makes it worse. It's remarkable... to see this happen at such a critical moment in history. That is the last thing that we need. The politicians should probably step out of the way and let the scientists and the public health physicians do the work, and the politicians should be taking a back seat and empowering those who are more technical and who do this for a living to really drive this. It's really a great shame.

Rohitesh Dhawan on what happens if China pioneers an effective vaccine, and gives it first to nations already testing it

Producing and getting the vaccines out is a mammoth task. And even though China is a manufacturing superpower, it has had to go out and seek external partners with which to both test and manufacture the vaccine... And the agreements are, of course, to give those countries some portion of the vaccines that are thus developed, but also for China to have access to the spoils of the work... This is a way for countries to exert soft power, and in a GZERO world where the US and China are essentially fighting for privacy geopolitically, this will be a dynamic that we have to live with. [And] types of vaccines which are simple as a handle will naturally be more attractive to countries that have less well-developed healthcare infrastructures [so] we will see natural geopolitical alliances that in some cases reinforce existing alliances, and other cases will create new ones.

Mark Suzman on equitable and speedy vaccine distribution

We've got to realize that this is an unprecedented challenge globally. We've never actually tried to vaccinate most of the entire planet... So it's an unprecedented challenge in terms of manufacturing and distribution. But what we also need is to make sure it's affordable and equitably distributed. That means not just in rich countries alone, where there's the challenge that many rich countries would be buying up vaccine supply. And that's why we and others have been trying to participate in broader efforts to both have a prioritization of who gets the vaccines first — including high risk groups and healthcare workers — and to put a premium on affordability. We need to be manufacturing now multiple vaccine candidates at the same time, so they're ready to distribute as and when we get regulatory approval.

Gayle E. Smith on what the world will look like if we don't get a vaccine soon

There is a real danger that there will be a set of countries that are in a state of, quite frankly, perpetual crisis. [Without] travel corridors, there are countries whose economies will collapse. There is a real, real danger of that kind of crisis and the instability that comes with it. [But] one of the things I think is very positive is that despite all the politics, the geopolitical intrigue, the fight against facts that we have seen tragically as part of this pandemic, we've seen really consistent, robust cooperation among scientists, across borders, across communities. Regardless of what happens, we will see an escalation and deepening of that. And if we don't have a vaccine, it will grow further.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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