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EU slow vaccine FrankyDeMeyer/Getty Images

Vaccine Strains

The European Union’s botched COVID-19 vaccine rollout has created a political storm across the continent, endangered lives and livelihoods, and left the bloc far behind the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, and other vaccination leaders. But as bad as the EU’s performance has been, a lack of global solidarity means that many developing countries have yet to receive any vaccine doses at all.

In this Big Picture, the University of Munich’s Hans-Werner Sinn blames the EU’s vaccine shortages on member states’ legally unnecessary decision to entrust procurement to the European Commission. But, with infections rising again and many EU countries suspending use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Melvyn B. Krauss of New York University sees a chance for US President Joe Biden’s administration to revitalize transatlantic ties and limit Russian and Chinese influence by encouraging US-European joint production of vaccines in Europe.

Turning to the rest of the world, Ngaire Woods of the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government highlights three ways in which rich-country leaders can deliver on their promises of a rapid global vaccine rollout. In a similar vein, Oyeronke Oyebanji of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations argues that the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility is the world’s best opportunity to avoid a prolonged and damaging global imbalance in vaccine distribution. And Indian MP Shashi Tharoor shows how India’s “vaccine diplomacy,” by capitalizing on the country’s world-leading pharmaceutical capacity to provide millions of doses to poorer countries, may eventually yield geopolitical dividends.

Likewise, Erik Berglöf of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank sees a silver lining in the current delays in mounting a global response, arguing that the need for worldwide mass-vaccination drives could spur more ambitious efforts to improve public health in developing and emerging economies. But MIT’s Daron Acemoglu fears that Western governments’ failure to treat the pandemic as a global crisis means that even countries that vaccinate most of their population will have to abandon the most basic tenets of globalization.

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