Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

U.S. could fill "vaccine diplomacy" void as other powers struggle

The U.S. is the last major power to enter the race for global vaccine diplomacy, but still has the opportunity to win it.

Why it matters: China, Russia and other world powers began shipping vaccines all over the world months before the U.S. But they've all run into serious obstacles that leave the U.S. with an opening to become the biggest piece in the global vaccination puzzle.

The big picture: China has given or sold doses of its vaccine to around 90 countries, and 70 nations expect to receive Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, per the Economist Intelligence Unit. Those include nearly every country in Latin America.

  • The Biden administration has expressed concerns that Moscow and Beijing could use vaccines as leverage to expand their global influence.
  • Both governments stand to profit commercially from their state-funded vaccine, and diplomatically from the positive headlines the shipments produce.

Yes, but: Both have also struggled to deliver on their promises, as have the other major players: India and the EU.

That leaves the U.S., which is second only to China in terms of production but has barely exported any vaccine doses at all.

  • A major domino fell when President Biden agreed to export the U.S.' AstraZeneca stockpile.
  • Now, the White House has backed Pfizer's plan to begin to export doses made in the U.S., and announced that at least 10% of all doses purchased by the U.S. will be exported by July 4.
  • With its enormous production capacity and dwindling domestic demand, the U.S. could soon pivot to churning out highly effective vaccines — from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and soon Novavax — for the rest of the world.

Where it stands: China has exported more doses than all the other major players combined — which it can afford to do because its domestic outbreak is largely under control — through a combination of commercial sales, loan deals and donations to friendly countries.

  • But China's homegrown vaccines are less effective than others on the market. Chile has found the Sinovac vaccine offers little protection against symptomatic infections after one dose, and 67% after two. A study in Brazil put the efficacy at just 50%.
  • In countries like Brazil and Hungary, the refusal rate for Chinese-made vaccines is much higher than for western alternatives.
  • The director of China’s CDC acknowledged last month that the efficacy rates for China’s vaccines were “not high.” Discussion of those remarks was quickly censored online in China, per the FT.

Between the lines: An exercise intended in part to show China’s scientific and manufacturing prowess has had mixed results, even as China leads the way on exports.

Russia’s vaccine appears to be far more effective, at least based on one peer-reviewed study published in February, but it has run into troubles of its own.

  • Brazilian regulators recently rejected the vaccine, citing quality-control issues and inadequate data.
  • Russia's limited manufacturing capacity has also left it lagging behind the other major players. It's now hoping that other countries will produce its Sputnik V vaccine for their own domestic use, similar to a deal struck last week with Mexico.
  • France and Germany are considering buying it, but the EU’s foreign policy arm recently accused Russia of using Sputnik V — and misinformation about other vaccines — to "undermine public trust" in the bloc's approach to vaccination.
  • And Slovakia’s prime minister resigned last month over his controversial decision to buy Sputnik V doses, which the country’s drug agency refused to approve.

The EU, meanwhile, has struggled to live up its own rhetoric around “equitable access” to vaccines.

  • While drugmakers have been consistently exporting doses from the EU, the bloc's slow rollout forced Brussels to modify its export policy and pause plans to donate doses to developing countries.
  • The latest: France recently became the first rich country to donate doses to the global COVAX initiative, but the scale (100,000 doses) is a drop in the bucket compared to the gap left by India, which was until recently powering COVAX almost single-handedly.

India has exported doses to over 90 countries, including donations to neighbors, allies and several Caribbean islands.

  • But New Delhi froze most exports in March in order to prioritize the crisis at home.
  • The African CDC is warning that a prolonged pause would be catastrophic for lower-income countries that are counting on COVAX.

What to watch: Biden has said he wants the U.S. to play a central role in supplying vaccines to the world, but he hasn't yet said when or how.

Tech companies' money shields them from antitrust action

The tech industry's leading giants are floating on a cushion of record profits in lakes of reserve cash, and all that money makes them just about unsinkable.

Driving the news: Tech's big five — Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft — all report their earnings between Tuesday and Thursday this week. Recent quarters have delivered blowout results for these companies, and many observers expect the same again.

Keep reading... Show less

Vaccine mandates are suddenly much more popular

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

Why it matters: Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements.

Keep reading... Show less

American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Team USA's Carissa Moore won gold in the first-ever Olympic women's surfing final, at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The big picture: Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the gold medal in the inaugural men's Olympic surfing contest. The finals were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Activist Tong Ying-kit found guilty of terrorism in first Hong Kong security law trial

Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession by three judges Tuesday, per Bloomberg.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament in Tokyo

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the Olympics after losing her Tokyo tennis tournament match 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Extreme drought pushes 2 major U.S. lakes to historic lows

Two significant U.S. lakes, one of which is a major reservoir, are experiencing historic lows amid a drought that scientists have linked to climate change.

What's happening: Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the U.S., has fallen 3,554 feet in elevation, leaving the crucial reservoir on the Colorado River, at 33% capacity — the lowest since it was filled over half a century ago, new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data shows.

Keep reading... Show less

North and South Korea restart hotline and pledge to improve ties

North and South Korea's leaders have pledged to improve relations and resumed previously suspended communication channels between the two countries, per Reuters.

Details: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to "restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible," South Korea's Blue House spokesperson Park Soo Hyun said in a televised briefing, AP notes.

  • This followed an exchange of letters between the two leaders since April.

Go deeper: Kim Jong Un says prepare for "dialogue and confrontation" with U.S.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

U.S. teen Lydia Jacoby wins Olympic gold medal in 100m breaststroke at Tokyo Games

Team USA's 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby has won the Olympic gold medal in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games.

Of note: The Alaskan is the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, and she beat Lilly King into second place.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories