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The last mile of the immunization campaign approaches

April 23, 2021, 10:18 PM UTC

Good afternoon and happy Friday, readers.

I want to start off with a salute. My colleague, David Z. Morris, who has co-authored this newsletter with me over the past month, is moving to a new job after a decade of exceptional work at Fortune. I just want to say: He will be sorely missed by all of us here and wish him nothing but the best. David’s ability to conjure up eloquent and incisive stories on a beat he was thrown into by the pandemic, on top of his fascinating coverage on the technology industry, is truly inspiring.

My colleagues Erika Fry and Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez will be joining me to write this newsletter over the following week, and in May we’ll be back to a weekly schedule and in your inbox every Thursday with yours truly.

Now, let’s get to the news at hand. As we head into the weekend, we are creeping closer and closer to one billion COVID vaccine doses administered across the globe. There have been at least 950 million doses that have physically gone into arms to date. We might very well get to the one billion mark, as a collective species, in the next two to four days given the pace of vaccinations. That’s a staggering accomplishment within one year of an immunization campaign.

But discrepancies abound. While certain nations, including Israel (which has about 56% of its population fully vaccinated) and the United States (a far more populous nation that has about 27% of its population fully vaccinated and 40% with at least one dose), others aren’t so lucky. Smaller nations across the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, are barely a blip on the vaccination radar. Just 0.6% of Pakistan’s population has received a single COVID shot. Nigeria? More like 0.5%. Others fare even worse.

Why? Some of this likely has to do with inconsistent record keeping and reporting in a tangled web of intercontinental players. But there’s also plenty of supply chain issues which feed these inequities.

For instance, the United States, the U.K., and India, some of the more populous nations with fairly high vaccinations rates, have actual manufacturing plants within their borders to scale up the vaccine rollout. That certainly doesn’t hurt.

But the longer-term issue is how to prop up the countries which are struggling without the proper infrastructure or the ability to leverage geopolitical power and prioritize their residents for vaccinations. As I’ve said before, a virus has no borders. Its only purpose is to multiply and adapt. A select few nations reaching herd immunity doesn’t spell the destruction of coronavirus – it’s more like a regional band-aid. And band-aids have a way of falling off over time.

To put a finer point on it: “Coronavirus anywhere is coronavirus everywhere,” Robbie Silverman, a private sector advocacy manager at Oxfam, told Fortune in February.

Have a wonderful weekend, see you again on Monday, and a fond farewell to my colleague David.

Sy Mukherjee
sy.mukherjee@fortune.com
@the_sy_guy

DIGITAL HEALTH

AliveCor and Apple head to the mats. AliveCor has filed a patent infringement complaint against Apple over the technology that drives the Apple Watch (it's important to note that Apple's wearables and accessories department generated a staggering $13 billion in revenues in the first quarter of the year alone). In a fairly aggressive step, AliveCor is seeking to block the import of Apple Watches into the U.S. as part of its complaint. The company said that this “is one step, among others, AliveCor is taking to obtain relief for Apple’s intentional copying of AliveCor’s patented technology—including the ability to take an ECG reading on the Apple Watch, and to perform heartrate analysis—as well as Apple’s efforts to eliminate AliveCor as competition in the heartrate analysis market for the Apple Watch.” (9to5Mac)

INDICATIONS

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine seems to be back on track. It's not quite final yet. But a CDC advisory committee on Friday voted 10-4, with one abstention due to conflict of interest, to recommend resuming use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine in adults, lifting a pause on the one-shot jab's administration due to blood clotting concerns. Instances of those blood clots were extremely rare, a primary factor in the panel's decision, and CDC director Rochelle Walensky still needs to give a final sign-off. Furthermore, the panel did recommend a warning label for the ptoential risk of these blood clots for the vaccine, but didn't say there should be any restrictions. What's key to watch out for in the coming weeks is whether or not the pause over the past few weeks has eroded confidence in this particular vaccine. (Washington Post)

THE BIG PICTURE

Can President Biden reshore manufacturing? In typical fashion, my colleague David Z. Morris's final piece for Fortune is a must-read. And it's about a critical topic that encompasses most industries: Manufacturing. "COVID-19 has highlighted the fragility of the global supply chains that define 21st century manufacturing. The Biden administration is signaling broader structural reforms aimed at both reducing those supply-chain risks and slowing or reversing manufacturing job losses longer-term, a process known as "reshoring," by making manufacturing in the U.S. more attractive," David writes. Read the whole piece here. (Fortune)

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