Vaccine Nationalism Is an Exaggerated Threat

Large pharmaceutical companies are multinational organizations with incentives to distribute their vaccines broadly.

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Nationalism is all the rage these days. Following decades of globalization, the pendulum has begun to swing back the other direction, triggering fears that nationalist policies will lead to a breakdown in international cooperation and a destabilization of the world order. This, in turn, has led to much hand-wringing over “vaccine nationalism,” the notion that governments will take a “me first” approach to vaccines, further exacerbating the health crisis. The crux of the argument was elaborated in Harvard Business Review: “A [2009 H1N1 influenza] vaccine was developed within seven months, but most high-income countries turned to pharmaceutical companies within their own borders for production. High-income countries directly negotiated large advance orders for the vaccine, crowding out poor countries. Although several of those rich countries, including the United States, agreed to make vaccine donations to low- and middle-income countries, they only carried out these donations after ensuring they could cover their own populations first. As a result, the distribution of the H1N1 vaccine was based on high-income countries’ purchasing power, not the risk of transmission.” This argument is predicated on an idealized view of nation-state behavior. While it is true that it is preferable from a public health standpoint to provide […]

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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.