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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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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