Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Instances
The rich countries come first for new virus vaccines
The world’s richest countries have claimed more than half the doses of coronavirus vaccines that will hit the market by 2021 as many poorer nations struggle to secure enough. If all of these doses are met, the EU could vaccinate its residents twice, the UK and United States four times, and Canada six times, according to our data analysis.
In developing countries, some countries may be able to vaccinate no more than 20 percent of their population in 2021, with some not reaching immunity until 2024.
In many cases, the US made funding for the development of the vaccine conditional on priority access. The country is on track to approve another Moderna vaccine this week.
By the numbers: The UK has claimed a total of 357 million more cans with options to purchase 152 million more, while the European Union has secured 1.3 billion, with up to 660 million more cans if it so wishes.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
A second wave has brought a new spike in infections to Sweden, overloading Stockholm emergency services and forcing authorities to recalibrate their approach.
Russia has released additional results from a clinical study of its leading coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, showing an effectiveness rate of 91.4 percent. AstraZeneca opened talks this month on pooling efforts.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced new restrictions as the country entered a second wave of coronavirus, infections expected to increase over the Christmas season.
The European Medicines Agency said in a statement that it would press ahead with a meeting to decide whether the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine should be approved from December 29th to December 21st.
New laws in Hungary further undermine civil liberties
The Hungarian parliament passed comprehensive measures on Tuesday that restricted gay citizens’ rights, eased control over public spending and made it difficult for opposition parties to challenge Prime Minister Viktor Orban in future elections.
The government issued a written statement justifying its actions by stating that the Constitution “is a living framework that expresses the will of the nation, the way we want to live.” Increasingly, the “will of the nation” can no longer be distinguished from that of Mr. Orban.
Analysis: The new laws are of “great concern,” said Agnes Kovacs, a legal expert. In more than a decade in power, Mr Orban has torn apart the fabric of democratic institutions in search of a state that he describes as “illiberal”.
Details: The legislation includes a constitutional amendment that will effectively prevent gay couples from adopting children in Hungary by defining a family to include a man as a father and a woman as a mother. The change could also make adoption more difficult for single parents.
Somalia is cutting off diplomatic relations with Kenya
Somalia on Tuesday severed diplomatic ties with Kenya, accusing the neighboring East African nation of meddling in their internal political affairs. The move took place weeks before a decisive parliamentary election.
“The Somali federal government made this decision in response to the political violations and the ongoing apparent interference of the Kenyan government in the sovereignty of our country,” said Information Minister Osman Dubbe.
Context: The move brings an added note of instability to an already shaky region after the US announced plans to withdraw troops from Somalia – which will raise some fears that the militant Shabab group will escalate its offensive over Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
If you have 5 minutes it is worth it
Brazil’s chaotic vaccination schedule
With its world-class vaccination program and strong pharmaceutical industry, Brazil should be well positioned to contain infections domestically. But political struggles, arbitrary planning, and a growing anti-vaccine movement have left the nation without a clear vaccination schedule, our reporters found. Above a vaccine trial in São Paulo this month.
The Brazilians now have no idea when a vaccine will come. The coronavirus has brought the public health system to its knees and the economy hit. “You are playing with life,” said an epidemiologist. “It’s a border criminal.”
The following also happens
Big Tech: In order to enforce stricter surveillance of the tech industry, regulators in the European Union and the UK have enacted regulations to pressure the world’s largest tech companies to remove harmful content and to become more competitive.
Uighurs: Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will not investigate allegations that China has committed genocide and crimes against humanity because of the mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. China is not a party to the court.
Apr. 15, 2020 at 9:56 am ET
South Korea: More than a dozen couriers in the country have died this year, some of whom complained about workloads keeping them posted from morning until after midnight. The deaths have caused national uproar over their treatment.
Climate change: Reducing US greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 appears technically feasible and even affordable, but it will be challenging, according to a comprehensive study by a team of energy experts at Princeton University.
Snapshot: Above, the owner of the Kiral Coffeehouse in Istanbul. Coffee houses, the mainstay of Turkish society for centuries, are suffering from pandemic restrictions, especially after games that used to be played for hours were banned. Many famous cafes are closed, others lose money quickly.
Lived life: For over 21 years with the CIA, Dr. Jerrold Post pioneered political psychology. Later, as an academic, he analyzed world figures like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and – in his last book – President Trump. Dr. Post died at the age of 86.
What we read: Bloomberg Businessweek’s annual jealousy list, where journalists highlight the stories of other outlets that they would have liked to have written.
Now a break from the news
Clock: The inspirational documentary “Giving Voice” currently on Netflix. It’s a film that adores the way actors can instill determination in young people, writes our reviewer.
To do: With the help of our travel guide, imagine you are in Singapore. Fry some pasta, make yourself a drink and transport yourself to the Lion City.
We’re here to help you enjoy the vacation at home with our collection of ideas for what to read, cook, see and do while staying home safe.
And now for the background story about …
The quick route to a virus
New vaccines against the coronavirus are an amazing story of scientific success. But they also fit a pattern that goes back decades: many of the greatest technological breakthroughs in American history did not originate in the private sector. Instead, they are the result of collaboration between private companies and the US government.
After all, the Department of Defense built the Internet. Government research and development also resulted in transistors, silicon chips, radar, jet planes, satellites, artificial limbs, cortisone, flat panel displays, and more. “Almost everything about your computer today – and how you use it – comes from government funds at an early stage,” emphasize economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson in their recent book Jump-Starting America.
Why? Because basic research is usually too insecure and too expensive for a company to afford. Often it is not even clear which future products research could create. No kitchen appliance manufacturer would ever have thought of conducting the military research that led to the microwave oven.
At Covid, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines draw on years of government-funded (and sometimes government-run) research into viral proteins and genetics. This research, explains Kaiser Health News, is “essential to the rapid development of vaccines in response to Covid-19”.
Federal aid has accelerated this year. The government has funded Moderna’s work over the past few months as part of the billions it has spent to make a record-breaking vaccine possible, writes Ed Yong of the Atlantic.
What are the lessons for the post-covid world? Solving the biggest challenges like climate change will almost certainly depend on a combination of public funding and ingenuity from the private sector.
Still, Federal funding for science has become a smaller part of the US economy than it used to be. That said, the Covid vaccine is both an inspiring achievement and an exception. “On its current course,” write economists, “it seems unlikely that America will continue its dominance of invention.”
That’s it for this briefing. Until next time.
David Leonhardt wrote today’s background story. Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh took the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]
• We hear “The Daily”. Our latest installment is about America’s first coronavirus vaccinations.
• Here is our mini crossword puzzle and a clue: Peppery Flavored Salad Greens (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• The word “Poikatsu”, the Japanese subculture of loyalty point hacking, first appeared in the Times on Tuesday, according to the Twitter account @NYT_first_said.
• Siddhartha Mahanta joined our opinion desk as a vertical editor for business, business and technology. Most recently, he was editor-in-chief of Rest of World, a digital magazine.