Quick Take: Latest vaccine news may be a light at the end of the tunnel

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday, Thanksgiving week. Things starting to look increasingly normal in terms of outlook, in terms of having all of these vaccines. I understand that the next few months in the United States are going to be incredibly challenging, but so much easier when you see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and you know where that's coming. Most recently, the AstraZeneca announcement, which for me, in some ways is a bigger deal globally, even than what we've seen from Moderna and Pfizer, because it doesn't require freezing, it's just refrigeration, which means that countries around the world that don't have the infrastructure to deal with this cold chain requirements of these vaccines will be able to use another set of vaccines with different technology. That's not just AstraZeneca, it will be Johnson and Johnson. It's the Russians. It's the Chinese.

As you start rolling those out, that allows the world to actually get back to normal. It's going to take longer than the United States and Europe and Japan. The advanced industrial economies are going to get these vaccines first, they've put the money in, they've done the development, they have the infrastructure, but we're not talking about years, we're talking about months. By the time we get to first quarter next year, large numbers of people are actually going to be vaccinated. I also think it's really important that this is an issue that is not getting politicized. I mean, yes, there's the potential for fights among states, especially states that have difficulties in terms of how much money they have and can allocate to getting this infrastructure up and running. It's expensive, it'll take billions of dollars, and a lot of states are already got big budget deficit crunches, and you're going to have Democrats versus Republicans fighting over where money is and isn't going and difficulties and stimulus, all of that.

But the fact that these vaccines have been developed by or supported by Operation Warp Speed in the US, means that both the outgoing Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration are all going to be saying, "Get these vaccines." I mean, there will be anti-vaxxer sentiment in the world, and there will be anti-vaxxer sentiment in the United States. But when your top vaccines are at 95% effectiveness, and when the side effects are largely limited to a fever for a few days, but not more significant than that, more people are going to take it. When both Republicans and Democrats, when political leaders around the world are all saying, "Take it." This isn't like, is a mask useful or not? Should have never been politicized in the US. What about hydroxychloroquine? That works, or no, it really doesn't. Remdesivir it works, no it really doesn't.

These things have gotten politicized and they make people not believe it. I don't think people will feel that way about the vaccines. I'm worried that in some countries, Israel and France, the level of anti-vax sentiment and the disinformation around vaccines is very high. Russia, believe it or not, highest level of disinformation and anti-vax sentiment in the world, even though the Russians themselves are one of the producers that are pushing to get these vaccines out as fast as possible, a lot of Russians will refuse to take it, but I think the numbers will be lower than you expect. So if you add to the fact that you're going to have lots of vaccines available soon at very high efficacy, not getting politicized, more people believing in it, and a lot of people that will have already gotten the disease. I mean, in the United States right now, we know that a large percentage of the population has already gotten the disease.

Let's say 5%, but in reality, that's tested, given limitations of tests and level of asymptomatic spread. In reality, it's probably more like 15% of Americans have already gotten coronavirus. Once we start talking about end of winter and what this present second wave looks like, you're probably talking about closer to 25 or 30%. So you have 25 or 30% of the population has already gotten coronavirus, whether they know it or not, and have some level of immunity. Then you're able to get a meaningful piece of the population taking this vaccine, especially those that are most vulnerable to dying. Your mortality rate from coronavirus by spring is going way down. That's on top of all of the improvements with treatments that we've gotten with better ability to recognize quickly symptoms, both in-home treatments and in-hospital treatments and these antigen cocktails also getting approved. We see from Eli Lilly, we see others, the Regeneron, those are also making a significant difference in terms of improved treatment and lowering mortality rates.

You put that all together by middle of next year, we're starting to look at coronavirus in the rear view mirror. It's still an issue, it's still with us, and it's still a global problem, but it's no longer stopping us from engaging in big pieces of our daily lives. My God, that's great news. It's bigger news then the election in the United States, I've said it before, I'll say it again. Coronavirus is absolutely the most important issue in the United States and globally. It was true before the election. It's true after the election, a lot of people going insane because Trump refuses to concede. He may never concede. He's still leaving. Yes, it's a problem that we've got all this disinformation in the media, but that's very different from being able to respond in short order, in a year, to a disease that did not exist in the human population just over a year ago, has infected, we know of, some 50 plus million people around the world. Again, reality much greater than... suddenly we can address it. That's the news! That's the news!

Lots of other things going on, obviously, and I'll be spending more time on them. It'll be good to get back to daily, international affairs. The fighting that we see in Ethiopia, which is getting worse and a lot of hard liners in the Ethiopian government that the Abiy administration needs to stay in power, but pushing towards efforts against the Tigray region that could amount to war crimes. I hope they don't start shelling the general population. We've already seen lots and lots, I mean, 5,000 a day refugees, those numbers could pick up, it's a big new war and it's in a country that has over 100 million people, that's a pretty big deal. So got to watch out for that.

Certainly worried about the potential for US, China relations to continue to deteriorate. Trump is still President for a couple of months and there will be further measures taken against the Chinese government. There are plenty of things the Chinese government's doing that are antagonizing, not just the US, but other countries around the world, that has the potential to get worse. Also, of course, the fact that there's just been a meeting between the Saudi Crown Prince and the Prime Minister of Israel, both have their domestic challenges. Netanyahu may not be very long for power in Israel, MBS has had his internal fights and trying to consolidate power inside Saudi Arabia, and clearly worries that a Biden administration will not be as interested in working with him as the Trump administration has. But we're talking about a completely new geopolitics in the Middle East that allows America's allies in the region to work more closely with each other, puts more pressure on Iran at the margins, makes it easier to get back to a new tweaked Iranian nuclear deal.

By the way, my friend, Tony Blinken who's about to be appointed Secretary of State, he is someone who clearly understands that if you're going to get back to the Iranian deal, you're not doing the status quo ante, it's going to be more challenging. So the Saudi Israel alignment, which Secretary of State Pompeo was involved in, frankly, I mean, I'm sure that Pompeo and Blinken are not talking to each other right now, but I'd like to hope in the coming weeks, maybe they will, because they're both rowing in the same direction. This is an area where the American national security interest is the same, whether you're talking about Trump or whether you're talking about Biden, there's more of that than people generally think or appreciate it. So that's a little bit from me. Thanks everyone, be good.

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Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?