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Due to globalization for the COVID vaccine, not nationalism

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Due to globalization for the COVID vaccine, not nationalism

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In normal times, most people don’t consider vaccines a political issue at all. But a small minority – one defying easy left or right classification – think vaccines are either unsafe, or shouldn’t be mandatory, or probably both (at this point I wouldn’t be shocked if anyone out there thinks they are it should be) mandatory, even if uncertain).

But these are not normal times. Americans have not seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic in over a century, and hence the policy is abnormal.

For example, in November, when Pfizer first announced its vaccine, Vice President Mike Pence praised the “public-private partnership” forged by President Trump. Pfizer then denied it was part of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s project to accelerate vaccine development. “We were never part of Warp Speed,” said Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine research at Pfizer, in an interview. “We never took money from the US government or from anyone.”

It turned out that Pfizer, as the supplier of the vaccine, was actually part of the program. And while they didn’t take any money, the federal government guaranteed a larger purchase of the vaccine if Pfizer was successful.

During the brief controversy, liberals cheered independent private sector entrepreneurship, and conservatives – led by Pence, who was an open free market advocate in the pre-Trump era – celebrated the triumph of industrial policy.

As a free market guy, this flip-flop doesn’t bother me too much. Wars and pandemics are two traditional exceptions to the rules of limited government. And it’s always nice to see liberals acknowledge private sector glory, even if it’s just a matter of denying Trump the bragging rights.

The more worrying and annoying political ploy is to attempt to claim these vaccines in the name of nationalism. On December 3, Pence stated, “Only America could you see the kind of innovation that led to the development of a vaccine in record time.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently ridiculed the Canadian Prime Minister for relying on an in US-made vaccine leaves.

In the UK, education minister Gavin Williamson made an even bolder statement about the vaccine approval process: “I just think we have the very best people in this country and we obviously have the best medical regulators, much better than the French have much better than the Belgians, much better than the Americans. That doesn’t surprise me at all, because we are a much better country than any one of them. ”And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Russia’s vaccine called“ Sputnik V ”is the subject of a widespread nationalist and anti-Western propaganda campaign.

It’s all nonsense.

Initially, the vaccine, sold in the UK, was developed by a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech, American and German companies. In a broader sense, the effort to defeat the pandemic was appropriately a national matter. As Scott Lincicome, a commercial scientist and my colleague at Dispatch, explains, the vaccines Americans will get are testament to the benefits of globalization. In every phase, “from corporate management through investments, research and development to production and sales”, globalization was a key success factor.

In fact, BioNTech was founded by two German scientists, both of Turkish descent. Pfizer’s head is Greek. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moderna was co-founded and is run by a Lebanese immigrant. The other co-founder is a Canadian immigrant. The manager of Moderna is a French immigrant. The biochemist Katalin Karikó, who played a key role in the development of the messenger RNA technology used in the vaccines, comes from Hungary.

All of these companies benefit from global capital markets, global supply chains, and of course, previous scientific achievements that span the globe. The genetic map of the virus was created by a Chinese researcher and his team and made available to the world free of charge.

One of the reasons globalization is such an easy political target is that it’s easy to pinpoint its costs, but it’s hard to attribute the benefits to it – in part because politicians are so quick to claim credit for themselves.

There is plenty of room for the US to ponder its role in the record breaking adoption of these vaccines. But it must be remembered that this was a group project on a global scale, and without the benefits of this global dimension we would certainly wait much longer.

@jonahDispatch

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