The Geopolitics of Vaccine Distribution

Inoculations are a welcome development, but the public should temper its excitement.

The American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, in collaboration with German firm BioNTech, surprised the world when it announced that its coronavirus vaccine showed 90 percent efficacy in preventing COVID-19. Days later, another American firm called Moderna announced that its vaccine was nearly 95 percent effective. And shortly after that, AstraZeneca announced that its vaccine was 62 percent to 90 percent effective. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration dictates that vaccines be at least 50 percent effective to earn emergency use authorization, and most observers weren’t expecting vaccine candidates to perform much better than that. The reported results, therefore, were a pleasant surprise that excited governments and markets alike. The magnitude of this accomplishment cannot be overstated. Typically, the timeline from inception to regulatory approval of a new drug is about 10 years. After receiving approval, pharmaceutical firms then prepare for mass manufacturing, which itself could take another decade. However, thanks to a combination of factors – government programs like Operation Warp Speed, expedited regulatory approval and unprecedented global cooperation – the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine from a trustworthy source will be delivered in less than a year. (China and Russia also claim to have created vaccines, but insufficient data […]

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Alex Berezow
Alex Berezow joins Geopolitical Futures to analyze the impact of science, technology, and public health on geopolitics. Dr. Berezow is a prolific science writer who has written over 1,000 articles, many of which appeared in major news outlets. He is also a monthly columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. Currently, Dr. Berezow is also Vice President of Scientific Communications at the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer advocacy non-profit whose mission is to debunk “junk science,” promote evidence-based policy, and separate exaggerated health scares from legitimate health threats. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks. Previously, he was founding editor of RealClearScience (of the RealClearPolitics family of websites), and he served as assistant editor of RealClearWorld, where he specialized in European affairs. Dr. Berezow holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington.