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An elderly woman walks past a poster encouraging seniors to get vaccinated against COVID in Beijing.

REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

What We’re Watching: Beijing vax mandate, DRC-Rwanda tensions

Beijing gets China's first COVID vax mandate

Somewhat late to the party compared to many parts of the world, China introduced on Wednesday its first COVID vaccine mandate in Beijing. Starting next week, residents of the capital will need to show proof of vax to enter most public spaces as authorities scramble to contain a new outbreak of a more infectious omicron subvariant. Oddly enough for an authoritarian state, China shunned mandates early in the pandemic because most people agreed to get vaxxed on their own, which helped keep the virus under control until late 2021. While nearly 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, inoculation rates among the elderly — those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID — are lower because many older Chinese adults are wary of getting jabs. What's more, China's vaccines are not as effective as Western mRNA jabs against new variants, so perhaps the goal of Beijing's mandate is to keep the unvaccinated elderly at home without implementing a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai. How will this affect Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy? If major outbreaks are reported, expect other big Chinese cities to follow Beijing's lead.

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Podcast: How we overcome infectious disease with a public health renaissance

Listen: Former CDC chief Tom Frieden says he's stunned by how infectious COVID is compared to other diseases. The pandemic isn't over yet, he tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast, thanks to long COVID plus the fact that we can't predict how the virus will play out in the future. Frieden's advice for everyone is to get vaxxed and boosted, to "keep yourself out of the hospital and, quite frankly, out of the morgue," since new variants could emerge, making the virus more deadly.

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Ian Bremmer: Zero COVID No Longer Works, and China Will Pay a Price | Top Risks 2022 | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer: Zero COVID no longer works, and China will pay a price

For Ian Bremmer, China has the strongest political governance of any major economy today. Sometime that's good, and has allowed China to become the world's second largest economy.

But there's also a downside we're going to see this year, Bremmer said during a livestream conversation to launch Eurasia Group's annual Top Risks report. China's zero-COVID policy, which worked incredibly well in 2020 to respond to the pandemic, no longer works because the virus has changed.

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A cow, a prostitute, a nose ring: The best vax incentives of 2021

If you were a little hesitant about getting the COVID vaccine, what would it take to change your mind? Cash? Free beer? Tickets to the big game? Doughnuts? A car? A lifetime fishing license? Or is all of that too tame to get you to roll up your sleeve?

Throughout 2021, governments and companies around the world tried all kinds of crazy incentives to get people jabbed. Here are five that we loved — one of which is made up. Can you spot the fake?

Bakas for Vaccines. In the Philippine town of San Luis, the vaccinated are entered in a monthly raffle to win a cow (a “Baka” in Tagalog), delivered to the winner’s door by the mayor himself. Each jab counts as an entry, so the double-vaxxed have twice as big a shot at winning. Still, despite this bovine bonus, the Philippines has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia, at just 44 percent.

Nose ring and a hand-blender anyone? Goldsmiths in the Indian city of Rajkot, in the state of Gujarat, banded together to open a vaccination site that offered free gold nose pins for women who get the jab. The prize for men was a free hand blender! Among the most populous Indian states, Gujarat has the second highest rate of full vaccination, at 86 percent.

Joints for jabs. Back in June, the US state of Washington offered free, pre-rolled marijuana joints to anyone 21 and older who could prove they’d received at least one jab. Washington was the first US state to legalize cannabis, back in 2012, and it ranks an impressive tenth overall in vaccination rates in the US, with 68 percent. But they could surely roll up some more spliffs to get that number even higher.

Rum punches COVID in the face. The Galleon rum distillery in Curaçao is giving out free shots of their stuff to anyone who gets the jab — but that’s just an aperitif. Everyone also enters a raffle where the grand prize is to snorkel for 15 minutes through a gigantic vat that’s filled with Galleon rum and outfitted with an LED-lit “shipwreck” — a replica of one of the famous, treasure-laden galleons that sunk off the nearby Venezuelan coast in the 17th century, giving the distillery its name. If you can survive that, then COVID doesn’t stand a chance — vaxxed or not.

Coitus against COVID. A Viennese brothel is using the world’s oldest profession to encourage uptake of the world’s newest vaccine. The women of Fun Palast (Fun Palace) offer a free 30-minute fling to anyone who gets vaccinated on site. Carnal encouragements notwithstanding, Austria still has one of Western Europe’s lowest vaccination rates.

Subscribers to our daily newsletter, Signal, learned the bogus one, as did our Instagram followers. Swipe through here to see if you correctly identified the fake!

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 | GZERO World

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 on the Fight Against Covid 19 | GZERO Summit

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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Ian Bremmer: Challenges of Vaccine Production & Distribution | Quick Take | GZERO Media

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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