Can the US 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 Ian Bremmer on GZERO World 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.
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.
What We're Watching: Indian farmer revolt, EU vs vaccine makers, Myanmar saber-rattling, Maduro's miracles
Angry farmers take Indian fort: In a major and violent escalation of ongoing protests over new agriculture laws, thousands of Indian farmers broke through police barricades and stormed the historic Red Fort in New Delhi on Tuesday. At least one protester died in the chaos, while the government shut down internet service in parts of the capital. Farmers and the government are still deadlocked over the new laws, which liberalize agriculture markets in ways that farmers fear will undercut their livelihoods. The government has offered to suspend implementation for 18 months, but the farmers unions are pushing for a complete repeal. Given that some 60 percent of India's population works in agriculture, the standoff has become a major political test for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP party.
They said it couldn't be done: a vaccine developed in record time. In 1967, Merck had a license for a mumps vaccine, less than five years for work that normally takes decades. But that record is now being shattered as the COVID-19 vaccine reaches the market in less than a year. It's an unprecedented scientific development in a whirlwind year of crisis.
Watch the GZERO World episode: A Shot in the Arm: Moderna's Co-Founder on the COVID-19 Vaccine
Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:
COVID vaccine rollout has begun in the UK. What's next?
Well, I was so pleased to see that the second person to get the vaccine in the UK is William Shakespeare. Some 86-year-old guy living in the UK. Of course, of course he is. It's also nice for the UK, finally have some good news about something. It's been all Brexit and economic disaster and Boris Johnson, bad news on coronavirus. First, it's herd immunity, then it's not. It's lockdown, it's not. But the first advanced industrial democracy to start getting vaccines out there and capping off an extraordinary year in terms of vaccine development. Really Moore's law for vaccines. It's very, very, very exciting. What happens next is we learn a lot. One of the big mistakes that we made in the United States is we had a couple of weeks when the virus was exploding in Europe and we were twiddling our thumbs in the United States. We weren't prepping, we weren't watching what was happening in Italy and making sure that we understood the type of coordination we needed, the type of testing we needed, the type of contact tracing we needed. As a consequence, some critical time was wasted. We need to be watching very carefully what problems the UK has, challenges in rolling out this vaccine. First vaccine we see right now from Pfizer, that's the one that's most challenging from an infrastructure perspective. It's the one that needs the proprietary cold chain capability, super low temperatures, South Pole type temperatures. It needs labor on site that can dilute the vaccine right before it is administered. Those are things you can do easily in good hospitals. It's not an easy thing to roll out across a countryside.
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.
US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced Monday that the coronavirus vaccine it is jointly developing with German company BioNTech is more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. The news that the end of the pandemic could be in sight drove global stock markets through the roof (except for Zoom!), and raised hopes around the world. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government's top infectious disease expert, called the preliminary figure "extraordinary."
What does this mean not only for the pandemic, but for the politics around it?