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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More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

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