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Podcast: COVID Vaccine in Record Time - What Now? Moderna Co-Founder Noubar Afeyan

Listen: The pandemic's US death toll shows no signs of abating and the holiday season's spike will likely dwarf any surge that came before it. But in the midst of this dark winter there are glimmers of hope, as the first of the COVID-19 vaccines have nearly arrived (or, depending on when you read this, already have). On the GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer interviews Noubar Afeyan, the co-founder of a leading vaccine developer Moderna. They'll discuss distribution plans, the revolutionary science behind Moderna's vaccine, and how a company younger than Twitter became a frontrunner in the race to end the pandemic.

How the Moderna vaccine works, why it’s effective, and how it’ll be distributed

"What we're trying to do is to educate the immune system to see the protein before it's seen the virus." In a race for a COVID vaccine, Moderna, a 10-year old company with no products previously on the market, developed a vaccine in 10-months, by using revolutionary new mRNA technology. Now the focus shifts to how to distribute and safely administer this vaccine. Moderna co-founder and chairman Noubar Afeyan explains.

His conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World, which began airing nationally in the US on public television Friday, December 11th. Check local listings.

Watch the GZERO World episode: A Shot in the Arm: Moderna's Co-Founder on the COVID-19 Vaccine

GZERO Summit: Fighting COVID-19

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.

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Quick Take: Challenges of vaccine production & distribution

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, back in the office in New York City. And I've got my Christmas scarf going, it feels... It's the time of the holidays, get your trees, decorate, right? I usually have a little tree trimming party, which means everybody else comes and trims the tree with me. Not this year, but nonetheless, soon to be, Merry Christmas to everybody and lots to talk about.

I guess, biggest thing on my mind right now is the rollout of these vaccines. I mean, on the one hand it's I know it's challenging the push and pull of the United States right now being in the teeth of the worst of the pandemic in terms of cases, in terms of hospitalizations, and even now in terms of deaths. And that's with mortality rates significantly lower than they were six months ago, but the case level has been so explosive that the death rates are still higher than they were at the earlier peak back in the spring. And given where hospitalizations now are and given where cases are certainly going to be, those numbers are going to keep going up. So, on the one hand we're looking at maybe half a million total dead by the time we get to end of January, February, and the next couple of months are going to be really, really hard.

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Watch our expert panel on reasons for hope in the COVID crisis

Watch the recording of GZERO Media virtual Town Hall, "Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year," presented in partnership with Eurasia Group and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Our panel discussed the road ahead in the global response to the COVID crisis. Will there be more multilateral cooperation on issues like gender equality moving forward from the pandemic?

Watch the event recording here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/townhall

Our moderator, CNBC health care correspondent Bertha Coombs, along with Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, and Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, spoke with distinguished experts on three key issues:

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project

  • How will COVID vaccines be distributed safely?

Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics & Political Science

  • How has the pandemic disproportionately impacted women?

Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management; former US Secretary of State

  • What is the opportunity for global cooperation emerging from this crisis, and what are the greatest political risks?

Friday, December 4, 2020
12 noon EST/9 am PST/5 pm (17:00) GMT
#GZEROTownHall

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.

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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.

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GZERO Media Town Hall: Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic

GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

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