Africa is done waiting for vaccine donationsNovember 24, 2021
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Please note: We’ll be off for Thanksgiving this Friday, Nov. 26, but back to our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 29.
MUST VIEW CHART — COVID IN EUROPE
Chart reading notes: The chart makes clear that there’s a strong correlation between vaccination rates and reduced Covid-19 death rates in European countries. It is important to note that the European countries with the best functioning health care systems and lowest ratio of residents with underlying health conditions tend to be the ones with low Covid-19 death rates: Those factors reinforce any vaccination benefits.
“By the end of this winter, everyone in Germany will either be vaccinated, recovered or dead," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference in Berlin.
NEW GERMAN COALITION GOVERNMENT AGREED: We’re in the last couple of weeks of the chancellorship of Angela Merkel. A deal is now agreed between the leaders of Germany’s Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals. Provided the members of the three parties endorse it — the deal will install Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat candidate, as Chancellor, with Liberal leader Christian Lindner as finance minister, and top posts for the Green Party’s co-leaders: Annalena Baerbock (foreign minister) and Robert Habeck (economy).
Biggest scope for policy change: Watch for increased U.S.-Germany policy alignment on Russia.
SWEDEN HAS ITS FIRST FEMALE PRIME MINISTER: Economist Magdalena Andersson, 54, has been Sweden’s finance minister since 2014. She takes over from Stefan Löfven, who announced his resignation in August. A fragmented Swedish parliament backed Andersson as Löfven’s successor by one vote.
NEW PODCAST EPISODE — STRIVE MASIYIWA ON AFRICA’S FIGHT TO BUY VACCINES
“We’re not asking for donations,” said Strive Masiyiwa, head of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and founder and executive chair of Econet, making him one of Africa’s wealthiest entrepreneurs.
He told Global Insider that his top takeaway from 18 months of vaccine procurement hell is that Africa can’t wait for COVAX. The only solution for Africa is building a vaccine infrastructure at home.
With less than 10 percent of Africans vaccinated — well short of the African Union’s goal of 60 percent by the end of this year — Masiyiwa is frustrated at how he has been elbowed away from negotiating tables.
My POLITICO colleagues interviewed Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, after our podcast was finalized. Fauci fears Covid will spread uncontrollably, infecting vulnerable populations, before more countries can receive and administer first doses. To date, only 43 percent of the world is fully vaccinated, with Africa lagging behind the most.
Time to look in the mirror, America: Fauci told POLITICO, “We’ve been exploring options to be able to get the companies to significantly increase their capacity specifically for the development of doses that can go to low- and middle-income countries.”
The 64 million dose question: Why doesn’t the U.S. simply allow commercial exports of U.S.-made vaccines? That’s a pretty good incentive to increase production, and it’s what Masiyiwa wants.
AFRICA WON’T WAIT FOR COVAX
South African scientists are working to reverse engineer the Moderna vaccine, with the help of WHO. The new vaccine hub comes months after Masiyiwa said he had to launch a rearguard action to ensure Johnson & Johnson's Covid vaccines manufactured in South Africa would not be shipped to Europe, as planned, before nearly anyone in Africa had been vaccinated.
“How can you accept an arrangement whereby vaccines produced in Africa are shipped to Europe while Africa has no vaccines? … We said, ‘No, no, we're paying for these vaccines. We're not asking anyone for a donation. We're paying for them.’”
Empty wealthy country pledges: “What we understood to be equitable treatment is obviously not the way the rich nations looked at it. From the perspective of the rich nations, it meant we get them first. And when we've done with saving our own people, we will then attend to you.”
On realizing India’s licensed vaccine manufacturers would not fulfill planned vaccine deliveries to COVAX: “I'm not going to beat up on India. The bottom line is those who had the production assets are the ones who could vaccinate their people.”
Coups as a secondary consequences of the coronavirus pandemic: “When you're having to lock down the poorest people who live on $2 a day, the economic, social and mental health issues and social cohesion are horrendous. … We've had five or six coups in just the last 18 months, which is more than I've seen in a generation. Now is this a causality? I'm not a social scientist — we’ll know in due course — but certainly there’s economic stress on our people … we have no stimulus packages … we cannot help people.”
WHO — NEW IP-SHARING MODEL: The World Health Organization Covid Technology Access Pool and the Medicines Patent Pool have inked a licensing agreement with the Spanish National Research Council to make a Covid testing available for worldwide manufacture. The deal is winning plaudits from nonprofit health advocates, including Peter Maybarduk from Public Citizen’s Access, who called it “a model for sharing medical technology with humanity.”
ENERGY — TURNING ON THE OIL TAPS: The U.S., China, India, Japan, U.K. and South Korea have agreed to coordinate a flooding of global oil markets with strategic oil reserves to force down oil prices. The United States will this week make 32 million barrels of oil available (currently stored in salt caverns along the Gulf Coast), and another 18 million barrels will be offered Dec 17. The reserve was created in 1975 and contains around 600 million barrels. This is only the fourth time the U.S. government has made a general release from the reserves.
TURKEY SLAUGHTER: After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended an unorthodox policy of cutting interest rates to fight soaring inflation, the Turkish lira traded at an all-time low of 12.50 lira to $1. The Wall Street Journal reported that the lira has lost nearly a third of its value since the beginning of the month.
SUPPLY CHAIN — IT WILL TAKE MONTHS TO UNWIND CURRENT CHAOS AND DELAYS: That’s per HSBC economists, whose most optimistic scenarios involve a return to normal in March 2022.
DRAINING THE FOREIGN INFLUENCE SWAMP: Josh Rogin makes a forceful argument for better disclosure of foreign paymasters among those not only lobbying, but also those testifying, before Congress. He notes a group of House Republicans led by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) is trying to close loopholes via a "Truth in Testimony Reform Resolution."
ENDING THAT OTHER FOREVER WAR: South Korea and the U.S. are close to finalizing a text that would formally bring the Korean War of the 1950s to a close … if North Korea and China also agree. There’s no sign that Pyongyang will.
THE BARBADOS MODEL: Fighting climate change, ditching the Queen, demanding reparations for slavery and inviting in China’s Belt and Road investments: Little Barbados is swinging big in 2021. Prime Minister Mia Mottley, whose Labour Party controls every seat in the country’s parliament, says Barbados is simply taking control of its destiny; others worry about becoming “Little China.”
WHISTLEBLOWING IN 2021
You watched the polished rollout of Frances Haugen’s inside information at Facebook, aka The Facebook Files. But what is it like after the spotlight fades, or if you don’t get the support Haugen got?
Michael Johnson writes for POLITICO that his own whistleblowing experience, against health insurer Blue Shield of California, almost ruined his life. Johnson says spiraling legal costs — after Blue Shield sued him for breaking a confidentiality agreement — forced him into a settlement.
Global Insider turned to John Tye, a former whistleblower, now chief disclosure officer at Whistleblower Aid. In 2021, Tye assisted Frances Haugen to disclose her revelations about Facebook, seven years after he revealed concerns about handling of U.S. signals intelligence while a State Department employee. Here are Tye’s top tips for anyone considering whistleblowing.
INTERVIEW — JOHN TYE, CO-FOUNDER OF WHISTLEBLOWER AID
Whistleblowing 101: “You shouldn't really be sending anything into just a random website, even if it's a government website,” because of the hacking risk and because “there can be conflicts of interest,” he said. “You need an independent advocate,” rather than handing over your information to someone who reports to a political entity. “Every U.S. government agency has something called an Inspector General, which is supposed to make sure that agency is following the law. And for some things, the inspectors general are very good. But if it's anything involving the senior leadership of the agency, the Inspector General has a conflict of interest and can't properly address those issues.”
Keep it secure: “Nothing is 100 percent secure, but we've disabled every insecure way to reach us. So you can't send us an email that's insecure, we don't have a web form, we don't even have a mailing address. There's two ways to reach us: a message on the encrypted Signal app or the most secure way is called Secure Drop. You have to install a special browser called Tor Browser, which strips off all the metadata from your message. So even we won't be holding your IP address.” Next: “You need to establish secure lines of communication, ideally in-person. If you can, away from all microphones.”
Whistleblowing is a process, not a document dump: “Some cases are a few days long. Some cases we've been doing for four years,” and that makes coming forward “a very personal decision,” Tye said. “There's no risk-free way to be a whistleblower. The safest thing is always to go home, and pretend you never saw anything. But there are almost always lawful steps you can take that will make it illegal to commit retaliation against you.”
The financial struggle is real: Whistleblower Aid works to provide direct legal representation, security, specialized secure communications and other support, Tye said, but demand outstrips cash flow: “It's not even close to meeting the demand,” he said, noting “we did a GoFundMe for the Facebook matter.” “In many other places in the world, there’s zero (support).”
On his own whistleblowing case: “I did not want to go to prison. I did not want to flee the country. I didn't want to never work again. So I hired two lawyers. I paid them a bunch of money: $13,000. So this is not cheap.”
HYPE OR HYPOCRISY? Your albums are named "Freedom" and "Justice" — So don't sing for the Saudis, Justin Bieber has been told by Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
REPRESENTATION WITH THEIR TAXATION: New York City lawmakers are poised to offer local election voting rights to 800,000 New York residents who enjoy the legal right to work, but who lack U.S. passports (including your author). The plan is expected to be approved Dec. 9.
APPOINTED: Aaron Keyak as the new State Department Deputy Special Envoy for Antisemitism, working to “tackle rising global antisemitism,” per spokesperson Ned Price.
GROUNDED: President Joe Biden’s new helicopter is not yet considered reliable in a crisis, Bloomberg reported.
MISSED CONNECTION: A Thanksgiving treat, hopefully for one Global Insider reader …
If you were the Secret Service agent detailed to UNGA, who chivalrously tried to bring a certain U.N. staffer cups of tea during the General Assembly: She really wants to hear from you. Email me at [email protected], and I’ll pass it on (I already know your name, so that’s all I need as proof of identity).
PODCAST — Diplomates, hosted by Fulbright scholar Misha Zelinsky from Australia, this monthly show is pitched as a “geopolitical chinwag.” Recent guests include Claire Wardle, leader of the First Draft nonprofit at Harvard University focused on misinformation and disinformation, and today’s episode is with Oh My World host Hagar Chemali.
COMING ATTRACTION — The Forever Prisoner, a doco by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney on the story of Abu Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee subjected to the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” now deemed torture. Zubaydah, a Saudi Arabian, remains imprisoned at Guantanamo nearly 20 years after his capture. Trailer here. Premieres on HBO Dec. 6.
Thanks to editor John Yearwood and Hannah Farrow.