US bet on Pfizer and Moderna may lead to earlier COVID vaccine rollout

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

With COVID vaccine near, what will the distribution look like across the world?

Well, yeah, it is quite near. I mean, we're talking about approvals coming just in the next few days for the first in the United States and indeed in other countries around the world. That means that within weeks, you're going to know people that have actually gotten vaccines, and that's pretty exciting, especially with Moderna and Pfizer showing 95% effectiveness. I guess there are a few things that I would say. The first, hearing from the coronavirus task force that everyone in the United States gets the vaccine that wants to take it by June. I think that's right. I mean, there could be infrastructure and delivery hiccups. I hope there won't be. Everyone is going to be rowing in more or less the same direction on this because everyone understands how important it is to get it done.


I'm going to say it again. I don't think you're going to see a lot of people playing politics around taking the vaccine. There are anti-vaxers out there. I've already heard from a bunch of them, but you're not seeing that from Trump or his top advisors. You're not seeing that from Biden and from his incoming coronavirus task force. In the United States where everything gets politicized, a lot of people are going to be taking this coronavirus vaccine. And indeed, you already see numbers of people and their skepticism has been reduced significantly just in the last couple of weeks as we're learning more about it. I certainly feel much more comfortable that I will take these vaccines as soon as they are properly available to me. I'm not sure I would've said that three months ago, given where we were at that point. I feel very comfortable with that now. So that's number one.

Number two, the United States has bought as much as possible of not only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but other vaccines too. And the reason they do that is because when you see start making those orders, you don't know which vaccines are going to work. Because the Europeans have bet more strongly on AstraZeneca, which is a vaccine that has had problems in testing and doesn't do as well, that implies to me that the Americans are going to be getting this rollout before the Europeans do. And that will have economic implications for getting economies back up and rolling early next year. So the US does have a structural advantage here.

Also, final point. Let's keep this in mind. Those two vaccines in the United States are really vaccines that are most useful for advanced industrial economies, because they require much stronger infrastructure. You've got booster shots you need to deliver and you also have to have not just regular refrigeration, but more advanced cold chain technology. You're not using that in most of the developing world. The Chinese are going to be doing most of the early-stage export of their less effective, but still effective, vaccine to the developing world. Just needs regular refrigeration. And that's a lot of influence. I think you're going to see an enormous amount of politics play out as we see Chinese export to the developing world. And if you think that people are concerned about Belt and Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, you've seen nothing before the kind of leverage the Chinese influence over their best friends who get their vaccines earlier than other countries do and what they want in return.

This is also going to be one of the biggest challenges for the United States and China in terms of navigating the relationship. I mean, a lot of people think that the US-China relationship is going to be at least more normalized, maybe a little bit better, maybe more promising under Biden. I'm not sure. I see the outbreak of serious trade confrontation and diplomatic confrontation with Australia right now. I see it with Canada right now. I see so many countries that are really antagonized by the Chinese government. And I see these issues getting worse. So even with a group that's rowing in the same direction as the Biden administration will, and with tweets not driving people crazy, I suspect this relationship is going to be very challenging. And I think vaccine rollout is going to be a big problem. So that was a lot of time on your question, but it's a really important question.

Why is everyone on Twitter talking about monoliths?

I have no idea. Some artists installed some metallic thing in the middle of Utah that nobody saw for awhile, despite satellite technology. Why not? Why did no one notice? Aren't there people that spend all their time just looking at the land and seeing what's new? You'd think that AI would have figured that out, but no. No, apparently nobody noticed it, and then suddenly in person they did, and then the obelisk is gone. And I honestly don't care. And we're going to find out that it's... Remember the guy that took the banana and nailed the banana to the side of a wall and said it was an art installation and was charging $80,000? And some other crisis actor came and took down the banana and ate it. And the whole thing was a set up?

It is kind of is annoying. I mean, at least Banksy does it with real talent. The banana guy just did it with a stupid banana. Right? I mean, I don't consider that art and this obelisk is kind of a stupid obelisk, and I don't consider that art either. This is probably the most controversial thing I'm going to say all day. So come at me haters. I don't care. I'm just not interested in a stupid obelisk. The only thing would make me less interested in it is if you put it in Rhode Island. How's that? And drew cats on it. That would really annoy me. But they haven't done that. It's just a stupid obelisk, but it's on my list of things that I find annoying. So there you go.

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Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

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Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

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.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

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The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

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