More than 930 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered globally, and another 1 billion more are expected to be manufactured by the end of May. Most of the manufacturing is concentrated in a small group of countries. While some — like China, for instance — are exporting roughly half of the shots they make, others — mainly the US — are keeping most of the supply for domestic use. Meanwhile, export controls have been a particularly thorny issue in the European Union and India, where governments have come under intense pressure to stop sending vaccines to other parts of the world amid sluggish rollouts at home. We take a look at what the world's top manufacturers are doing with the vaccines they are producing.
600 million people worldwide have already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but about 75% of those doses were given in only ten countries. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, explains why the pandemic will not effectively end even in the world's richest nations until it is curtailed in its poorest. "A new variant that is less susceptible to the immunity that's brought about by vaccines or that's more transmissible or makes people more ill could easily then spread, in fact, to people in parts of the world where there have been large numbers of people vaccinated and where they think that they are then immune." Dr. Swaminathan discusses the urgent need to distribute vaccines worldwide in an interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.
Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic
In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.
Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic
Vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens before the rest of the world, has been effective for rich nations like the United States and Israel. But leaving behind so much of the global population isn't just a humanitarian issue. It could prolong the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization's Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who argues that what the global vaccination effort most urgently lacks are doses, not dollars. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, she calls for a large increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and suggests we may be seeing alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.
The EU acted swiftly, decisively, and effectively to respond to the pandemic's economic fallout. A nearly trillion dollar bailout package, agreed to late last July, has kept much of the continent afloat. But it failed on the public health response, first on testing and then rolling out vaccines. Enrico Letta, Italy's former prime minister, shares his thoughts on the reasons why in a conversation with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting this Friday, March 26. Check local listings.
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One the many reasons Fauci offers: "One of the most common is they say, 'Well, it was so fast.' We always talk about vaccines requiring years to develop...And when we explain to people that this is just a reflection of the exquisite advances in the science of vaccine platform technology and immunogen technology...we can win more people over than you can imagine." Dr. Fauci also tackles the question of when, and how, to start exporting vaccines abroad.
Watch the GZERO World episode: Dr. Fauci's Pandemic Prognosis
While multiple Western countries ramp up coronavirus vaccinations with the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, Vladimir Putin's Sputnik V gamble is now paying off as developing nations increasingly turn to Russia's cheaper yet equally effective vaccine to inoculate their populations. Sputnik V — one of only three jabs which is more than 90 percent effective against severe COVID cases — has already been approved for use in almost 30 countries, most of them longtime Russian allies but also a host of other nations — like for instance Hungary or Mexico — that aim to hedge their bets if supplies of other jabs dry up. If the trend continues, can Russia win the global vaccine race against the West and China? We take a look at where Sputnik V has been approved for use or domestic production, and how many doses will be distributed and manufactured in each country.
"Welcome to our country," says the immigration officer, "your passport please?"
You fumble through your travel wallet, pull out your national passport, and helpfully open it to the photo page.
"Thank you," she says, "Now, the other one."
But you don't have the other one. You haven't gotten the COVID vaccine, so you don't have the "vaccine passport" that this country now requires for entry.
This scene could soon play out in many places around the world as countries and airlines begin issuing — or requiring — vaccine passports that prove the bearer has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or has recently tested negative for the virus.
This isn't just a question of that vacation you've been dreaming of since the pandemic shut down travel. Many employers could begin demanding proof of vaccination before they hire you — or even to let you in the building for an interview. Medical facilities in some places have already made clear that vaccinations for their staff will be mandatory.
Are vaccines passports a good idea? People, governments, and companies want to know who might set off a new COVID wave and who is safe. But are we moving toward a Brave New World where the holders of vaccine passports become an unfairly privileged class of people?
The arguments in favor are obvious. Governments want to know that people entering their countries are highly unlikely to spread the virus within their borders. That's particularly important for major international transit hubs like London and Hong Kong, and island tourism destinations, but also for large economies like, say, the Philippines, Thailand, Greece, or Mexico, where jobs, economic growth, and government revenue depend heavily on outside business travelers and tourists.
And national governments aren't the only ones interested in a vaccine passport. Airlines want people to feel safe enough to fly. Event producers, hoteliers, and restaurant owners — who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic — want customers to feel secure enough to return in large numbers.
There are also strong arguments against this idea. First, it won't be easy to build such a complex system with anything approaching common standards and oversight, and the risk of mistaken identity is obvious. Given the stakes, a black market in fake passports will likely arise -- feeding corruption and undermining confidence in public gatherings, especially if some holders of vaccine passports are shown to transmit infection.
Second, even if the system works well, it will inevitably discriminate against people who, through no fault of their own, are still waiting to be vaccinated. That could mean younger and healthier people who are ineligible until later stages of the vaccine distribution process or those who are eligible but don't yet have enough information or access to vaccination sites. And those who decide not to get vaccinated because they believe it's dangerous would also pay a price in terms of mobility and employment under a system like this.
Bottom-line: The World Health Organization opposes a vaccine passport plan, but countries like Denmark, Sweden, Israel and others already have passport plans in development. Australia's Qantas Airways won't fly you down under without proof you've been jabbed. Other governments and private companies are debating right now whether and how to create and roll out such a system.