Why the U.S. needs to help the world get vaccinated

Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

It’s certainly wonderful that COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out in wealthy countries this month—Germany will commence vaccinations just after Christmas, pending European Medicines Agency approval that is expected Monday—but what of lower-income countries?

A great deal rests on the shoulders of the World Health Organization-affiliated COVAX facility, which is subsidizing bulk buys for such countries. As Cambodia just demonstrated by shunning China’s Sinovac shots, many countries would rather lean on COVAX than offer up their citizens for Chinese trials (Beijing is having to test its vaccines outside China, because its success in tackling the pandemic undermines the effectiveness of domestic trials.)

But COVAX is in big trouble, largely due to underfunding. Reuters reported yesterday that this factor, plus vaccine trial setbacks, distribution challenges and the complexity of supply contracts, meant billions of people could have no access to a vaccine until 2024.

Just to reach its target of vaccinating a fifth of people in lower-income countries next year, COVAX needs $4.9 billion on top of the $2.1 billion already in its coffers.

So far, the biggest heroes in this story are the U.K. and the European Union—the former has pledged over $700 million for COVAX, and the EU has so far allocated over $1 billion to the effort—plus wealthy donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $156 million.

Where’s the U.S. in all this? Nowhere, yet—the America-first Trump administration shunned COVAX back in September, because the World Health Organization is involved. The big question now is whether President-elect Biden will muster the U.S.’s considerable financial might (as the EU has asked him to do) to aid this globally crucial scheme.

Of course, Biden’s first concern will need to be the U.S.’s own terrifying COVID landscape. But make no mistake, the success or otherwise of COVAX will have considerable repercussions for the U.S., as it will for every other country.

COVID-19 is a pandemic, and it won’t be truly under control until it’s been stamped out everywhere. Even as wealthy countries immunize their populations, many people there cannot or will not get vaccinated; when the world’s borders open up again, they will remain vulnerable. That means the U.S.’s return to normal does not just rest on what happens within America’s borders.

Biden’s a multilateralist, and it’s this aspect of his looming presidency that most appeals to the rest of the world. There would be no better way for him to revive the U.S.’s standing on the international stage, and to keep the U.S. safe, than to help make COVAX a success.

More news below.

David Meyer



States vs Google

Ten U.S. states are suing Google for anticompetitive conduct. According to Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton, "Google repeatedly used its monopolistic power to control pricing, engage in market collusions to rig auctions in a tremendous violation of justice." This adds to the pressure of the DoJ's antitrust case against Google, launched in October. The FTC and most states also recently sued to break up Facebook—which, per the new suit, colluded with Google to stymie rival ad exchanges. Fortune

Bitcoin surge

Bitcoin hit record levels yesterday, and it's gained about 10% since—at the time of writing, one bitcoin is worth well over $22,000. There's no one event that can explain the surge, apart from a wave of speculative zeal. Anyhow, this is the fourth significant Bitcoin boom in the OG cryptocurrency's 11-year history. Fortune

Rio Tinto CEO

Rio Tinto, whose CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques resigned in September over the mining giant's blasting of sacred Aboriginal sites in Australia, has named his replacement. It's CFO Jakob Stausholm, who will take the top job on January 1. Longtime Rio veteran Peter Cunningham will assume the financial position. Bloomberg

Cyber attack

The major cyber attack on U.S. government agencies and companies is still ongoing days after its discovery, according to the FBI and other security agencies. "This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government," they said. It's likely that a nation state, possibly Russia, is responsible. Financial Times


Chip shortage

A series of unfortunate events has led to a chip shortage that is panicking manufacturers of cars, TVs and smartphones alike. The shortage is delaying productions by weeks or months. The main cause is underinvestment that’s become clear as demand picks up at an unexpected pace, but others include Huawei's bulk-buying, a Japanese chip plant fire, a strike at France's STMicroelectronics, and Southeast Asia's coronavirus lockdowns. Reuters

Luckin settlement

Luckin Coffee will pay $180 million to settle SEC fraud claims over the Chinese company's book-cooking. The regulator said Luckin had not admitted nor denied the charges, though it's worth noting that Luckin did indeed fess up to the fabrication of 2019 sales figures back in April, and it sacked its CEO and COO over the incident shortly after. Wall Street Journal

Locust swarms

The Horn of Africa and Yemen are suffering a second wave of locust plagues that threatens to spread on both sides of the Red Sea. This relentless year has already hammered East Africa with its worst locust swarms in seven decades, laying waste to crops across the region. This fresh assault could be just as bad, U.N. officials warn. BBC

Future ads

IBM VP Bob Lord writes for Fortune that the demise of third-party tracking cookies, which will be brought on by Apple and Google policy changes in early 2021 and late 2022 respectively, is a good thing, because A.I.-derived ads will provide "better value for consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike." Lord: "My company is partnering with a number of others to create a digital advertising ecosystem, based on A.I., that is open, transparent, and privacy-first—instead of walled and mysterious." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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