While surgeon and public health expert Dr. Atul Gawande thinks that the Biden administration has been hitting most of the marks when it comes to turning around the US vaccine rollout operation, there's one area where they need to step things up: the development of cheaper and more effective antiviral drugs for people infected with COVID-19. But when it comes to vaccine distribution itself, Dr. Gawande believes that the current administration has a firm grasp on boosting vaccine supply.
Listen: Can the United States vaccinate enough of its population to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths before new and more contagious COVID-19 variants take hold? And will these vaccines even be effective against more adaptable mutations of the virus? Surgeon and public health expert Dr. Atul Gawande, most recently of the Biden/Harris COVID-19 Transition Task Force, joins the podcast to discuss the latest in the global effort to vaccinate our way out of this pandemic. He also explains why people should get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if offered the chance, despite its lower overall efficacy rate compared to the mRNA-based vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
On Thursday, February 4, Johnson & Johnson requested emergency FDA approval for its single-shot vaccine. In the days since the company first released efficacy and safety data, many of the headlines focused on its lower efficacy rate compared to that of mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. But that's the wrong takeaway, says surgeon, public health expert and former member of Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, Dr. Atul Gawande. "This is a highly effective vaccine. It stops people from getting sick. If some people have some sniffles and mild effects from the coronavirus, that's okay, this is going to stop the deadly disease. And that is the ultimate goal of the vaccine."
Gawande's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, which starts airing on public television nationwide beginning this Friday, February 5th. Check local listings.
Moderna co-founder Noubar Afeyan concedes that there is plenty he still doesn't know about his company's COVID-19 vaccine, just as there's plenty he still doesn't know about the virus. But he is confident about one thing: "I view the vaccine as the best mask. It's a molecular mask, and once we have it onboard once, then presumably it will protect us." His conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.
Watch the GZERO World episode: A Shot in the Arm: Moderna's Co-Founder on the COVID-19 Vaccine
Almost one year since the coronavirus upended the world, what's the current state of play on ending the pandemic, and what challenges we face towards vaccinating everyone in 2021.
Fortunately, as the virus has grown exponentially, so has science, Dr. Larry Brilliant, CEO of Pandefense and one of the world's most highly regarded epidemiologists, said during the panel discussion on fighting COVID-19 at the 2020 GZERO Summit in Japan.
Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:
Number one, Trump will not concede the election. What happens now?
Well, it's very different from impeachment. When impeachment happened, all the Republicans opposed it. Mitt Romney get one conviction, but otherwise, it was party line. And the social media, Fox news, OANN, all these guys, everyone said "innocent." This is a different story. Here's one where Trump isn't conceding, but actually, the Republicans are all over the map. We've got several Republican senators already that have called to congratulate Biden on his win. I know four have done so as of this morning.
In a small village in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, an indigenous nurse is doing whatever she can to protect her own community from the ravages of COVID-19. But in a place where water is in short supply, the struggle to enact proper sanitation is very real. But so, too, is her determination to succeed.
Watch the episode: Dr. Ashish Jha on COVID-19 and the dark winter to come
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here and welcome to your week. I hope everyone's having a decent Monday. So much talk about. I want to really focus on coronavirus. Still have to think that is the story in the United States and globally. Everything else is second, third place. A very critical driver of the US election, of course, as it should be. The most important crisis of our lifetimes, irrespective of where you place responsibility, accountability, blame. Your view of that has to be a significant driver of how you think about voting.
The numbers are getting worse. Both in the United States, in Canada, in Europe, and in global developing markets, we are seeing larger numbers of coronavirus cases. In part, that is increased testing though, in many states in the US, we still have positive rates well over 10% of testing, which means we're not testing as much as we need to. That is true in the United Kingdom, that is true in other countries as well. I would argue that the numbers that we're seeing are still so much lower than what the reality is in terms of total cases that we've had. The World Health Organization believes at this point that we probably have about 10% of humanity that has gotten coronavirus. In other words, something like 800 million people, about 20 times the total numbers of cases that we are aware of.