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What We're Watching: Latin America's vaccine shortage, China's crackdown on HK's free press, Juneteenth a new national holiday

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, for instance, which is shut out from COVAX due to US sanctions imposed on the Maduro regime.

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Would you get rid of COVID-19 vaccine patents?

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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The dangers of an uneven COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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

Newer, better COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon: is a nasal spray coming?

Nasal sprays, oral vaccines, and other new types of COVID-19 vaccines may be ready soon, according to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. She previews some of these needle-less vaccines and notes that the possibility of being able to store vaccines at room temperature could be a game-changer for vaccinating poorer nations. The advantage of nasal sprays, she explains, is that they "would generate local mucosal immunity in addition to systemic immunity." Dr. Swaminathan's conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 9. Check local listings.

AstraZeneca vaccine politics may further damage Europe's economy

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on the latest news in global politics on World In :60 - that is, :180.


First. What is going on with the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Well, around Europe, we have all of these countries that have suspended giving out AstraZeneca vaccines, because there have been some side effects of people that are taking it. Blood clots, a tiny number of folks, actually fewer side effects for AstraZeneca than we've seen for Pfizer, but it's become this big political show. After a few countries start shutting it down, others do because they can't be left by themselves. I just talked to a major senior official from one country saying, "Yeah, we were under pressure. We want to keep it going." World Health Organization said it's fine. AstraZeneca itself who has done the trials, say it's fine. And this is slowing down an already very slow vaccine rollout in Europe. They were doing a lot of things reasonably well in terms of dealing with the pandemic, but absolutely not this. They're a couple of months behind the United States right now in terms of getting to herd immunity. This is going to slow them down. It's going to hurt their economic growth this year. Okay.

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