Vaccines Around the World

 
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By Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers and Pantsuit Politics. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
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Beth: [00:00:00] Hearing from people around the world is a stark reminder that as much as COVID-19 changed our lives here in the United States, it did not restrict our lives to the degree by a long shot that it did in other countries. That we had a lot of guidance, but very little enforcement. People were free to kind of take them and figure out which ones they were going to adhere to in which they weren't and so you see the dramatic differences in results based on that.

Sarah: This is Sarah

Beth: And Beth.

Sarah: You're listening to Pantsuit Politics.

Beth: The home of grace-filled political conversations.

Sarah: [00:01:04] Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Pantsuit Politics. On today's show, we're going to start a conversation about the conflict in Israel right now. That we hope to continue over the next few weeks. We're also going to talk about the vaccine situation around the world. And we're going to wrap up the show by talking about vaccine etiquette. Like, can you ask if someone's vaccinated, can you share that you're vaccinated? We're going to, we're trying to get into those murky waters a little bit on outside of politics.

But before we start, we know that some of you like our managing director Alise have Spotify up literally all day, every day and so if it's where you keep your listening life organized, Spotify is probably a great place for you to listen to this show too. Follow us on Spotify if you're not already and make it that much easier to catch new episodes when they come out on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Beth, you had the best framing for this conversation we want to have about Israel and [00:02:00] Palestine.

Beth: [00:02:01] Thank you. I think a framing about what's happening between Israeli and Palestinian people is incredibly complicated and totally fraught here in America and I think we project a lot of our own stuff on it and miss a lot of what's really going on there and so I try to start by remembering that there are people, like whole people, just like you and me, who are Palestinian and who are Israeli, who just want to live their lives. And they want to have a job and a place to live, the ability to go to weddings and funerals and have birthday parties and live their lives and they did not ask to be part of this generational struggle and they have varying degrees of trust and confidence in the people who make decisions to launch bombs and rockets and, uh, police forces.

And so just trying to keep them at the center of my own thinking has really [00:03:00] helped me reject the sense of needing to choose who is the aggressor and the victim, or who's the good guy and the bad guy here or who I should be kind of cheering on in this conflict. It helps me to just. I see it more as a really complex conflict that affects so many people's everyday lives and the everyday lives of Jews and Muslims around the world, because both of those groups have such a long history of facing discrimination and hatred, that any time this struggle between them and these Holy spaces for them surfaces in the news, people living all around the world can be subjected to terrible vicious acts and so just, you know, people-centered kind of grounds me.

Sarah: [00:03:58] I think that's really [00:04:00] important because what we've heard from so many of you is that with this latest conflict and the real rapid escalation of violence in the region, you are looking at this issue again with fresh eyes. So many people in our audience come from deeply conservative, evangelical backgrounds, and that background informed how you thought of Israel for a long time and so many of you have either left that background or done some really hard work on your own politics, your own religious beliefs, and this particular moment is a reminder that you're holding some old attitudes, old ideas about this region of the world and so centering the people there I think is so key as we start to dig out from under some of these ideas.

You know, Beth, you and I were talking about it that you didn't really experience the [00:05:00] sort of Israel and Jewish people as a manifestation for all these ideas about end times and revelations and, you know, even the left behind series, I caught sort of the tail end of it in my Baptist upbringing and that there was a lot of focus on Israel as this sort of representation of where we were in this like grand, you know, cosmic journey toward the end times.

It definitely didn't infiltrate my thoughts, but I do remember this ongoing narrative that I received growing up, that this was just sort of baked in, that this was a, you know, this was a conflict that had been going on for thousands of years and it was just this very fatalistic it's beyond our control. It's really in God's hands and, you know, there's always going to be fighting and all we can do is sort of watch as it [00:06:00] represents this sort of struggle and what that means for our own faith, but the fatalism and the idea that you know, this was just the reality of this religious conflict definitely permeated my thinking and definitely informed my thinking on these two very real people. Like you said, individuals who are lives are being affected or lives are being lost, real politics and policy as effected by the United States that really affected my thinking.

Beth: [00:06:32] I'm running up against also the devastating impacts of constant hyperbole in American politics trying to describe the situation because we use the word existential here as though, you know, our coffee is existential and this is truly an existential situation for some portion of those populations. Even people who are not particularly politically inclined in other ways, because of all of the [00:07:00] history and because of the present at times that we're not paying attention to when the world's eyes aren't in this region, there is a sense that people are fighting for their survival and this is just true of all of us.

When we think our very survival is threatened, we become really dangerous. So I think our audience consists a lot of, a lot of the people that you just described, Sarah. We also have a lot of people who are either long time or new leave, very progressive and there's been a real push in progressive circles to see and uplift the humanity of Palestinians in this conflict. In part, I think, as a reaction to what feels like the eraser of that experience by this embrace on the evangelical side of things, of, of Israel and its people. And so we hear from y'all on the more progressive end to things that Israel's might is unmatchable by Hamas, and that [00:08:00] we have to view the situation in terms of who has more power here.

And I think it is both true that Israel has far superior military capabilities, weaponry organization not do in small part to the United States, selling a lot of that weaponry to Israel and funding some of it. But I also think it is true and we've seen this time and again, throughout our history and throughout the world, that when people's backs are against the corner, even if they do not have the most sophisticated weaponry, they can be extremely dangerous and to me, I just don't want to get lost in sort of who's worse here. I just want to be honest about every incident that happens and understand it as in, as clear-eyed away as I can, backing away from that instinct to project any of my American stuff on it.

Sarah: [00:08:56] Well, and I think the really important thing to remember is [00:09:00] that there are individuals and on the ground being impacted but when we begin to talk about Israel and Palestine, who are exactly, are we talking about? I mean, the Jewish people, whether they live in Israel or not, are not a monolith, they don't all feel the same way. There was a beautiful piece excerpted in the New York times. And I read the full piece in Jewish Currents by Peter Beinart called "A Jewish Case for Palestinian Refugee Return" that we'll put in the show notes.

And I think it reflects this, you know, there's a breadth of opinion here among Jews among Palestinians and I think not treating it like a monolith and making sure that when we are talking about what's going on, you know, when we're talking about right now, with the Israeli government and the Israeli leadership's responses, that we're very careful in our language because of that history of discrimination against both Jews and Muslims, past and present, that we distinguished very [00:10:00] carefully around the leadership and military actions and we don't sweep up everyone that holds the identity of Israeli or Palestinian or Jewish or a Muslim when we talk about these things.

Like we have to be really, really careful because you know, right now I think the Israeli leadership's response is disproportionate to what is happening, but that doesn't mean that I'm sweeping up the whole breadth of history when I speak about that and right now I think that there is a role that the United States government played, particularly the Trump administration, which we've spoken about on the show, basically broke the backs of the Palestinian people and excluded them completely and totally from any negotiations that took place during that administration.

I think there is responsibility there for this current escalation and I just think like when we are talking about such a complicated region and such a complicated people being very careful [00:11:00] saying, like, not trying to paint in these broad strokes, And to say like, because I'm newly progressive, then I'm, then this is the villain here and I'm all in on that is very, very important.

Beth: [00:11:12] And I would just want to recognize that it is by just the sheer randomness of birth that I am able to say, well, let me try to step way back from this and find some empathy with people on both sides of this conflict. I don't have in my family's history, genocide or an attempt to remove us from our homes. I don't have in my family's history, a sense that we don't deserve to live on earth. You know, I don't bring any baggage to this and that is just luck. It was just dumb luck, right. And so I'm not asking anybody to feel a different way than they feel about this. I think my big plea to our audience, especially in the United States is just that we not [00:12:00] infect this with our own partisanship because we can't make this situation a lot better, but we can definitely make it worse and we can definitely make it worse by simplifying it to break down as the left feels this way and the right feels this way and we have among ourselves.

And I feel this way about, you know, the rest of the world too. We have people living here who love are related to care about both Palestinians and Jewish people and we have both Muslims and Jews living among us who can be the targets of terrible acts based on how people feel about what's happening there. Again, feel how you feel about the central struggle here, about Jerusalem, about land ownership and territories, about everybody's motivations, about what on earth is happening [00:13:00] with the political leaders for both the Palestinian authority and the Israeli government, um, which is just a mess for both of them and that's part of why I think all this is happening.

I think we can't discount the pandemic in thinking about, especially the personal nature of some of the violence that we see happening right now and also, can we just, not from a place, especially of have limited information loaded up with our own partisanship.

Sarah: [00:13:26] Yeah. You know, what we've been talking a lot about recently is that there is not a finite amount of humanity that we have to Dole out. We do not add to the humanity of one side by dehumanizing the other side and that is not to say, let me be clear, that I think both sides are equal, of equal power, of equal responsibility, of equal fault. I do not believe that. I do not believe that, but I think that in our desire to create a more simple storyline, we do, uh, [00:14:00] intense injustice to both the history and the current day reality.

And I think until we can own our own responsibility in the entirety of that timeline up into present day, until we can acknowledge that there is humanity on both sides, no matter where you fall in that characterization of fault or immorality or genocide or murder or war. There is still humanity on both sides and I think staying focused on that because we're not at the, you know, we. Me and you as white ladies in Kentucky, most of our listeners, we don't sit at the negotiation table. We have power inside our own political process, and I think it is essential and important to have our voices heard.

And I think that the, the shift to the humanizing and empowering of [00:15:00] the Palestinian voice inside the political process in America is valuable and important and a change that I think is a change in the positive direction, but that's not because we have to you know, jerk humanity from the other side. And I think that, you know, staying focused on that and understanding that, you know, we're not trying to form our own peace Accords in our conversations about this, that when something is as hard and complicated as this, humanity and emphasizing that humanity, wherever you can as always the best approach.

Beth: [00:15:35] And to the extent that we're able to exercise our political power within our system, what I would like to see from anybody is an ability to bring some creativity to this process, because the efforts that we have seen on behalf of the United States, for sure, and the international community, to an extent, all consolidate around [00:16:00] the two-state solution. Now, if you are lost in this conversation, you are not alone. For all of the importance that Israel in particular plays in us politics and history and spirituality, we have not done a good job educating ourselves about what's happening here.

So, if you think about the two-state solution is the idea that Palestine forms as a sovereign nation and Israel remains as a sovereign nation and everybody agrees on the lines on the map that we draw and who governs what and, and how they govern themselves but currently what constitutes Palestine is split in the middle by Israel. There is the West bank Israel, and then the Gaza strip. And so there's geographic complexity, in addition to all of the other complexity here, and we've been talking about this two-state solution for at least 50 years and I just feel like if it were so obviously the right [00:17:00] answer surely there would have been momentum to get us there by now. And I just, I would like to hear some creativity to brought to this process and fresh ideas.

I don't know if Jerusalem needs to be a sovereign state on its own, right because of its significance to millions of people across the world from multiple faiths. I don't know if we need three or four States here, you know. I don't know what the answers are and I'm so glad Sarah, that you kind of release that pressure of trying to figure this out but I would urge all of us to say, Hey, we seem to be in a really intractable place, even as we float a shared goal so maybe that's not the right goal.

Sarah: [00:17:41] And I think we wanted to start here and release some of the grip, many of us hold on old narratives because there are some real present day complexities with the current politics in Israel, with the role of the United States recently with Abraham Accords, all these [00:18:00] really intense factors. Not, and we're not even talking about other countries in the region, in the role of Saudi Arabia and Iran and all of this that come to play in this current moment and we're going to get into that in the next few weeks, because we think it's really, really important.

This is just the beginning conversation to say, loosen up the grip on your past understanding of this, because the way that creativity comes to play is when we look at something with fresh eyes and so if you have an old narrative about this region in the world. If you have a new narrative about this region in the world that you feel very defensive of, then we're just encouraging you to lay that down because, because like Beth said at the start, there's a deep history and there is world religions at play and there is violence, but at the center of all, this is real whole human beings and their lives are being impacted every day.

[00:19:00] We're going to use our moment of hope to kick off our next conversation about vaccines worldwide. I'm just going to, I'm going to read it. I read it in the news brief and I'll read it again here today cause I think it's so good.

For the first time in a long time, nobody needs to cherry pick some misleading data to make it seem like things are going well and the good news doesn't need an endless list of caveats. It's just really good news. We're winning. Be happy. That's from Axios today about the COVID-19. Pandemic in the United States,].

All the numbers that we are watching closely are trending in the exact direction that we want them to trend. Now, the reason we're having this conversation is because that is not true for the rest of the world and that contrast makes it really, really hard.

Beth: [00:19:55] Katie in Canada told us that the inequality and divergence now in lived experience [00:20:00] between Americans and citizens from elsewhere on the globe is growing more jarring all the time and that really is the viewpoint that Sarah and I share. That this is a global problem, it requires a global solution. America moving unquestionably in the right direction is not a forever move if we don't ensure equity across the world. We have to have equal access to the vaccine in order to ensure that all of us can feel as confident as is available to us, that we can kind of move on from the pandemic.

And as we think about countries like India, where this crisis is ongoing, tragic and very far from being in the rear view mirror, it's important to us to give some context for what's happening in other places and we thought the best way to do that would be to hear directly from those of you who are listening from other countries.

Sarah: [00:20:57] So let's start with our neighbors from the North. We [00:21:00] heard from Katie just now and she's in British Columbia and she told us that some of the tension in Canada is really coming between the federal government and the provincial government. So the provincial governments, it's almost like the equivalent of States here in the United States and the federal government has taken the lead in negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies for vaccine procurement, because they don't have any manufacturing in Canada, but then every province has rolled out the delivery in their own way and that's leading to tensions.

And at first, you know, the, it was the vaccine supply that was the limiting factor, just like here in the United States but now it's the supply chain that's really the weakest link in the actual number of places that are prepared to store and inject vaccine doses.

Beth: [00:21:40] And it's really been tough in Katie's words to watch what's happening just a few hours away in Seattle and she knows people who are crossing the border into the United States to get the vaccine because they think it's worth the two week quarantine to come back into Canada to just get vaccinated faster and that's kind of the, the opposite of [00:22:00] what we often discuss in the United States in terms of Canadian healthcare and US health cares. Was really interesting to see this, this major change.

Sarah: [00:22:08] We heard the same thing from Amy in Ontario and then Jacqueline in Alberta called in and left us a voice memo about what it's like to be experiencing another lockdown.

Jacqueline: [00:22:16] I'm recording this a few days after some of the strictest lockdown rules we have had since March, 2020 have been introduced here in Alberta, Canada. Many businesses are shut down and those that are still open, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail, have a strict 10% capacity limit. As for gathering restrictions, indoor gatherings of any size are completely banned and outdoor gatherings must be less than five people, preferably from no more than two households and social distancing or masking must be practiced at all times. The rules are so strict that technically you cannot even walk through someone else's house in order to reach an outdoor gathering space.

[00:23:00] Cases reached the highest point in the pandemic about a week ago with our active case rate, being the highest in North America at the time at 565 cases per hundred thousand. Over the last couple of days, cases have appeared to start coming down in most of the province, but hospital and ICU occupancy is going up. When our premier announced lockdowns last week, he said that ICS were already using search capacity and that unless cases started going down quickly, we would be approaching the absolute max of search capacity by the end of may.

Sarah: [00:23:34] And even in areas, the world that have not experienced such strict lockdowns and are widely seen as COVID success stories, the rate of vaccination has been slow. We heard from Caroline and Rachel in New Zealand about the vaccine effort there. And here's Rachel in her own words.

Rachel: [00:23:49] Because our team of 5 million managed to effectively eliminate COVID-19 with our nationwide lockdown last year, we are now in a very different position from the rest of the world in how we approach [00:24:00] vaccine rollout. Because it's not running rampant in the community, it has allowed the government the luxury of carefully considering who should have the vaccine first and which vaccines are the most effective.

We use only one vaccine, the Pfizer and the rollout has been as follows. First stage, autoworkers and mandatory isolation facility workers. For example, the hotel staff, the cleaners, the caterers, and all the wonderful people who care for New Zealand citizens arriving back in New Zealand and a strict isolation protocol in specially allocated hotels.

We're now in the second stage. Frontline medical professionals across the country and over 65, who live in South Auckland, the most vulnerable area due to its proximity to Auckland airport. In may, it will roll out to all over 65 and then in July it will be available to the entire population. By the last quarter of this year, anyone who wants the vaccine will have had it for free.

Beth: [00:24:59] One [00:25:00] of the things that I thought was so interesting in Rachel and Caroline's messages, was this focus on how good communication from leadership made all the difference and, and gave them this space to think more about how the vaccine was going to be rolled out.

I just think one of the major lessons learned and I don't want to do like a blame section here in the United States, especially as we're celebrating some really positive news in our country and I think we need a moment to just be positive in our country. But I think one of the lessons learned here is that there is no substitute for really clear communication and that is complicated in a country as large as ours and we have that federal system that Canada is struggling with vaccine distribution through as well. So I get that it's not easy, but I sure hope that we can learn that lesson as we think about, you know, what the future might hold for us.

We also heard from Laura who is in Western Australia and she describes it as one of the most remote places in Australia and [00:26:00] really the world, she said, it has the nickname Wait Awhile and they have just gotten the green light for people over 50 to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. She hasn't heard of anyone getting the Pfizer vaccine. And so she said, you know, there's probably kind of low priority and risk in this area because it is so remote and at the same time, it's really tough because they can't go anywhere and she would really like to see friends and family across borders.

Sarah: [00:26:25] But what we heard from our friend, Max, who is in Japan is that Australia is not the only one taking the wait and see approach and that the Japanese government didn't bring a vaccine to market. They were very late to the negotiating game and they have a glacial pace and very inflexible bureaucracy when it comes to approving drugs and so it's been having to rely on shipments from the EU, which also needs every dose it can get and so Max doesn't expect to be vaccinated until next year, probably fall of next year, unless he can get on [00:27:00] a vaccinated trip to Europe right and that is really, really tough to even think about. Yeah.

Beth: [00:27:06] He said that Japan has done better than some countries in mitigating the pandemic. The State has 8.7 million inhabitants and only 66 COVID-19 related deaths and a little more than 8,000 cases. He says, now you have to take that with a grain of salt because Japan is not doing a lot of testing and there is a real social stigma to identifying as infected with COVID-19, but he says, if you look at the region, Japan is not the best. It is not the worst.

Sarah: [00:27:36] Well, it seems really interesting to me that so many countries and the inverse of the United States control the virus and felt like they bought themselves some time to take the vaccination process slower. We did very little to control the virus and so the vaccination process had to go at lightning speed in order to contain the virus.

Beth: [00:27:55] But hearing from people around the world is a stark [00:28:00] reminder that as much as COVID-19 changed our lives here in the United States, it did not restrict our lives to the degree by a long shot that it did in other countries. That we had a lot of guidance, but very little enforcement and we had a lot of requests and best advice and best practices and people were free to kind of take them and figure out which ones they were going to adhere to and which they weren't and so you see the, the dramatic differences in results based on that.

Sarah: [00:28:32] You know, it's interesting to hear from other parts of the world where the overall transmission was low, that I really appreciated this message from Lindsay in Uganda.

Lindsey: [00:28:42] Uganda first start at getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, I think as aid from wealthier countries back in March. So far, according to Reuters, we've vaccinated about 0.4% of the population. I truly don't understand why that number is so low. What I hear from friends in other parts of the country is that there's a lot of vaccine [00:29:00] hesitancy and the government seems to be doing very little to combat this which I also don't understand.

Uganda's population is about 60% under age 18, which will complicate efforts to get a majority of people vaccinated. I myself was actually able to get my first dose, not even because I'm in line for the official rollout yet, which I think is currently just teachers and healthcare workers but because I am on a team with several doctors, which is a reminder that a lot of life here depends on who, you know.

Ultimately, I find it to be really difficult to even know how to talk about COVID here. I live in Bundibugyo, a district wedged between a mountain range and the Congo border. This is one of the poorest districts in Uganda. It's only within the last 10 years that we've had a paved main road or power. Child mortality and unemployment are high. I have neighbors knocking on my door two to four times a day, asking for help with their most basic needs, like food, clothing, medical care.

I simultaneously know [00:30:00] that COVID is a huge problem that must be dealt with and I also understand that for many of my neighbors, COVID isn't even close to being one of their biggest worries. If you live in survival mode all the time, how do you find time to deal with a secondary crisis?

Beth: [00:30:14] I've been thinking a lot about this message, especially that statistic about how young the population in Uganda is. That seems to me like a really interesting factor in trying to understand transmission levels. Moving North from Africa, we also heard from listeners in Western Asia where things seem to be going better than other places in the world on the whole.

Katie is studying in Jordan and told us that the government just calls you and says, okay, it's your time. There's not a lot of control on your end about which vaccine you're going to get and when and how you'll get it but Katie has gotten her vaccination and is really excited about it.

Sarah: [00:30:52] We also heard from Kelly in Oman. She said that many distressed the vaccine and the supply has been low. It, [00:31:00] they first opened the vaccine up to the elderly and the chronically ill and the last she heard you had to be above 60 to get vaccinated. There are many healthcare workers that have not been vaccinated yet, and teachers have also not been prioritized and she said, as the weather has changed, we are now in the hot season and outdoor activities are more challenging.

And at the same time, it is Ramadan, a time for gathering with friends and family for Iftar. Numbers are higher than they've been in the last 14 months and they are telling us that the general public will have access to the vaccine in July. In the meantime, our schools are closed. Our beaches and parks are closed. We have a curfew that is scheduled to be extended, and also starting soon, all commercial activities except pharmacies and grocery stores will be closed.

Beth: [00:31:39] We also heard from Kat in the UAE and the UAE started implementing the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, very early and there was a lot of pressure, this surprised me, there was a lot of pressure in UAE to take the Chinese vaccine. Kat and her husband, like many around the globe [00:32:00] had concerns about the transparency and data underlying that vaccine. So they waited and here's what she told us.

Kat: [00:32:08] After several months, Pfizer became available to anyone with a Dubai visa, but our visa is from another Emirate. It's like different States in the US so we still didn't qualify and then for several months, the UAE wouldn't vaccinate anyone with an autoimmune condition, but then I started to hear rumors of some immunocompromised people being allowed to get it and then I started to hear rumors of people with visas from other Emirates, sometimes being allowed in. So we started working on finding a way.

There was a whole frustrating process of needing to register with the government app and generate a medical record number and there were plenty of hiccups and obstacles, but finally, by pressing into the fact that I had a chronic health condition and by persevering and trying multiple times, I was able to get on the list for an appointment.

When I showed up the whole time, I was afraid they'd turn me away because of my visa, because of my immunocompromised status. I was so nervous my blood pressure was actually too low for them to send me in to get the vaccine at first. But finally it was okay and they went [00:33:00] ahead and gave it to me and I was thrilled. We have electronic vaccination cards rather than the paper cards my friends in the US are posting on Instagram, but I am elated that I was able to receive the vaccine I really wanted.

So then my husband decided to just go to the vaccine center and start asking if there were any extra doses that had been defrosted or thawed and would have to be thrown away at the end of the day and while it took a lot of waiting and asking, he was able to get his the next week. He had been unable to, to even register on the website because of his visa location. I really think it was a miracle that I got through that step and got an actual appointment. Once we received our first doses, we were automatically given appointments three weeks later for our second doses and you better believe we rearranged our lives to make the times they gave us work.

Sarah: [00:33:45] Nearby in Saudi Arabia, Michelle experienced the country's prioritization of vaccination. Saudi Arabia, secured doses very early in the process and started offering AstraZeneca in late February. So here's Michelle on her experience in Saudi Arabia.

Michelle: [00:34:00] [00:34:00] There was a very exciting day when my group chats began blowing up with messages from friends who had just received texts invites to register for an appointment. Five minutes later, I received the text myself immediately registered for my appointment and cried tears of joy. Overall, the availability of testing and vaccines has been wonderful. Although recently the government announced that the second doses will be delayed to allow for more first doses to be administered.

We haven't seen cases going down yet, but I personally feel so much relief that myself and my community at least have had the first dose I'm hopeful that continued efforts will result in travel restrictions being lifted soon.

Beth: [00:34:36] So Max told us that in Japan, they've been reliant on the EU for shipments of the vaccine. That's true in many places throughout the world. Despite some complications in Europe, vaccines are becoming increasingly available, but similar to our friends in Canada, we are hearing frustration from Europeans watching the American rollout. Now Tanya lives in [00:35:00] Switzerland and has been pretty impressed with the rollout there.

She said that last week, she and her husband were able to get their first shots of Moderna. They registered in February. They had planned to open eligibility for people over 55, but had more supply than expected and so we're able to lower that age threshold to 45 and she said that the reason she has heard that the supply increased beyond what they expected is because of vaccine hesitancy in the 45 plus age group.

Sarah: [00:35:28] And with regards to the rollout in Europe, Max pointed out that you really can't underestimate the role of the EU. He says the acquisition and distribution of vaccine has been delegated to the EU. The reason is both philosophical and practical. On the one hand, Europeans feel that this is something we need to organize these efforts together. On the other pragmatically speaking, there wouldn't be much use for richer countries like Germany and the Netherlands if they receive more vaccines earlier than poor countries, like Slovenia, Czech Republic and Romania. The economics of EU countries have grown together and supply chain depends on [00:36:00] European trade.

Beth: [00:36:01] Max also points out again, that plants within the EU have to produce vaccines for the EU, but also the United States and the UK and the rest of the world because of the way contracts were negotiated and the ethics of different countries really comes into play when you think about how these contracts were negotiated. You know, the British government said we want first access to the AstraZeneca vaccines that are produced. The United States bought up tons and tons of Pfizer and Moderna and J and J. Conversely, the German government in the EU did not impose those kinds of restrictions. Max says you could call it naivete for blindly believing in global trade or just doing the right thing.

Sarah: [00:36:41] And finally, we got several messages from the UK. Their rollout has looked markedly different than the rest of Europe's in part because of Brexit, which is an interesting element to consider as a part of all this. We heard from Victoria who lives in the United Kingdom.

She says we live in London and while I could talk for an age about the UK's whole experience of the Coronavirus and the hell that this [00:37:00] past 14 months have been the vaccine rollout here has been amazing. I've never been prouder to be British, except maybe while hosting the Olympics in 2012. The government made some really brave choices to invest in AstraZeneca by 100 million doses and by lots of Pfizer and Moderna among others and once the rollout started in December of 2020, they were really clear that they were going to use the NHS infrastructure that is already deeply embedded in our communities and start with those over eighties, those in care homes and frontline social care staff, and then work their way down by five-year age groups and infirmity risk.

It has been amazingly smooth. Everyone has patiently waited their turn. There has been no way to purchase vaccines privately, and there has been really important to ensure equity, which in turn has ensured that no one tries to jump the queue and she said, she can say this confidently as her dad sits at the conservative peer in the house of Lords and he is in his colleagues were happy to wait their turn like everyone else.

The other really important thing that I think she points out that is so fascinating is that the medical community and government took a very [00:38:00] brave gamble to space 12 weeks between the first and second doses for everyone and it's really worked astonishingly well, it opened up a ton of doses for those instead of having to prioritize the second dose, prioritizing everybody gets a first dose. She said, I've have heard of no mess-ups on this. What it has meant is that the speed of the rollout was almost doubled in the first three months compared to if they were spacing doses three weeks apart.

Beth: [00:38:23] We also heard from Anders who is Swedish living in California and Anders told us about how Sweden's system of distributing vaccines is very, very centralized. So the counties contact each citizen when it's time for them to make an appointment and basically there is a dose with your name on it that goes to your primary health care facility.

As long as you haven't registered temporarily with another primary health care facility, doesn't matter where you're located. Swedes often go on vacation or move to summer houses in the summer and some of them never register with another facility. So as a result, like [00:39:00] lots of doses are going to primary facilities that are not anywhere near where the citizens they're intended for are right now.

But for the most part, the supply of vaccine has been pretty good. However, Swedes are frustrated by the delay that is part of being part of the EU. So they are watching that securing all those doses has come from the EU and find that annoying for a lot of the reasons that we've already talked about. I think that's so interesting because of the way that we talk about issues like this in the United States, you know.

I saw some people and not to just mention her in every episode, but Zeynep Tufekci, she is one who were saying, maybe we should think about just getting the first dose to more people and worry a little bit less about the second dose down the road once we have more people with some level of protection and those kinds of ideas get greeted often begrudgingly in the United States. And I think there is a path between [00:40:00] being overly critical of the CDC, which I do not want to be. I think people at the CDC work very hard. It is incredibly difficult job. So I don't want to be overly critical of the CDC.

I also don't want to treat people at the CDC as though they are not actually making decisions. That science is like golden rule. There's no space for different interpretations or different ideas and so hearing how other countr health systems, and, you know, bureaucratic agencies have looked at these questions. It's just really interesting to me. And I think it's worth spending some time thinking about.

Elise: [00:40:37] Hi, my name is Elise. I'm an American. I've been living in the UK for the last seven and a half years and I wanted to share my experience with the vaccine rollout here, which has been incredible and something the country is rightly taking huge pride in. The communication about who is eligible and when, and how to schedule an appointment has been really well organized. The government hasn't done everything well in responding to [00:41:00] COVID, but this is definitely a pride spot and this organization is doing large part to having a national healthcare system.

So listen up America, nationalized healthcare is a good thing. The only misstep I would cite was not prioritizing teachers when there was a big push to reopen all the schools in early March and the only justification was that the government was sticking to strict, uh, priorities by age and I know that wasn't entirely true because I was able to get my vaccinations earlier than my age group, as a member of the clergy.

However we are on track to have all adults vaccinated by the end of July and it's looking like most of our restrictions are going to be lifted by the 21st of June. So there, there is hope on the horizon here, and I hope that hope can spread as more and more places get the vaccine as well.

Sarah: [00:41:50] We want to think Elise in everyone who spent time to message us or send in their voice memos and share their perspectives. I think this is one of the best ways to [00:42:00] really understand what's happening around the world. You know, reading articles and long rains and watching news coverage is essential and important, but hearing it from the voices of the people in our community is invaluable and we thank all of you who contributed so much.

All right, Beth, for outside of politics, let's talk about vaccine etiquette. I hope you have a lot of thoughts cause I also feel as confused as our listeners.

Beth: [00:42:34] Well, we heard from Angela and actually lots of other people, this sense that as she has been vaccinated and would like to start doing things like getting a massage or going to a day spa, um, or hosting an event in her home, is it okay to ask people if they've been vaccinated? And I do love questions like this. I grew up reading Ann Landers and just thinking she did the best job on earth. [00:43:00] I think Sarah, as much as you were influenced by Oprah at, as at a, at a young age, I was probably influenced by reading, um, Ann Landers column in my parents' newspaper.

I think this is a hard question because there is an etiquette component and sort of a relationship component, as well as an examination of like what you are really thinking about the science and kind of whose risk you're worried about and I don't really want to get into that today cause we've talked about that a lot lately. For me, when I am thinking about potentially uncomfortable subjects that need to be discussed with people, I start with thinking how can we create as much space around this as possible so that people feel in control of what they say in a conversation instead of backed into a corner.

So if I'm going to go to a gathering, like maybe a family birthday party is happening inside and I want to know if everybody there has been vaccinated for whatever reason, because I'm worried about my health, because I'm worried about their health because I'm worried about kids. [00:44:00] Whatever the reason is. If I want that information, I think a better question then, has everybody been vaccinated is how are we making sure that everybody can attend safely?

Or what kind of discussions have we had about wearing masks or making sure that we aren't blowing out candles on the cake or that we're going to sit outside or whatever, just what are we doing to think about this? How is this going to be changed by the pandemic? I would certainly feel comfortable saying to a business, can you tell me about your safety procedures in light of COVID-19?

I think that just gives people a little bit more space than have you gotten the vaccine and let me judge you if you haven't or let me judge you if you have, or let me make you feel compelled to tell me your medical history about why you haven't or, or whatever. I just, we really put people in a uncomfortable and unnecessarily uncomfortable position. I think when we start with the most pointed question.

Sarah: [00:44:55] Well, and I guess if someone wrote in a letter like that to [00:45:00] like less via Ann Landers, I would say like, My first question is, are you vaccinated? Because I'm just going to speak from my own experience. Now that I'm vaccinated, I don't feel a lot of investment in those around me in whether or not they're vaccinated. At one, because I realized I have very little control no matter how I ask the question and two, because when I say I trust the science of vaccines, baby, I trust the science of vaccines. I'm feel very safe and very protected moving around my everyday life now that I'm vaccinated.

No, I think they're, to me, it's like, that's different. So if you're asking it, because maybe you can't get vaccinated to me, that's like a totally different ball game, but like, are you asking it because you're actually worried and you want to know what's going on. Are you asking it because you want to, do you want to see if there's any hesitancy out there that you can address? Which I think is a thing.

I mean, I had a conversation with a friend who I would have assumed was vaccinated and wasn't and we had a conversation and it was fine, but it wasn't, I think if you approach it, like [00:46:00] you're interested as opposed to like, you're trying to protect yourself that probably shifts the dynamics of the conversation as well.

Beth: [00:46:08] Well, and I think a better way to deal with that is sort of leading by example. So you get this invitation and you say, Hey, I just want to let you know that I'm fully vaccinated. I will abide by whatever standards you have in place happily. I just wanted to give you that assurance about where I am.

Sarah: [00:46:26] Yeah, I like that. I like the idea of like, we're just all leading with this, not demanding it from anybody else, but we're just leading with the information. Like that's where I am and I'm comfortable sharing that and that's because that's, I just think that the end of the day, like that's what you have control over instead of, you know, doing the exact opposite of whatever.

W what we all want to do is like, doubling down any hesitancy or making people even more hardened in their position. I think the best type of social pressure is just the awareness that everyone is doing it. Not that someone's shaming you for not doing it, just the awareness that like you're on the outside, looking in of [00:47:00] this particular decision.

Beth: [00:47:01] And like, I think people have heard different things in our conversations about COVID protocols, depending on kind of what space they were in when they listened, which is, I'm not saying that out of judgment, just acknowledgement. I want to be really clear that my first interest in interacting with other human beings is to be a gracious guest.

So if you have invited me to something and I say, thank you so much for this invitation to your graduation party. Um, I want to let you know that I'm fully vaccinated, but I'm happy to abide by whatever you're comfortable with and they say, we're going to have this party outside and we're all gonna sit six feet apart and I want you to wear a mask, that's what I'm doing. Like I'm going to be a gracious guest. I am, I'm going to follow whatever the restrictions are, whether they make sense to me or not.

And if I don't want to, or if I'm invited to a scenario where I truly don't feel comfortable, where people are taking more risks than I think are appropriate for say my [00:48:00] unvaccinated kids, then I'm just going to not go and I'm going to give a gracious no. Thank you so much for inviting us. We have another commitment and we really hope it's a good time and then send a card or something. Like, I just think we don't need to interrogate each other about this stuff. That's my basic premise.

Sarah: [00:48:18] I think that's a good one. I think that's a good, basic rule as we move out there with our vaccine etiquette, don't interrogate each other. It's a good rule for life. Generally never gets you anywhere. I've tried.

Well, thank you for joining us for another episode of Pantsuit Politics. We look forward to talking with you again on Tuesday and until then, keep it nuanced y'all.

Beth: Pantsuit Politics is produced by Studio D Podcast Production.

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612 episodes