The fluidity in the ebb and flow of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take us through uncharted waters as we gradually absorb the signs urging us to just “live with it” somehow. Even the modified springtime message from the epidemiologists that we might at least manage to get past the “acute” phase of this pandemic by the end of 2021 seems to have lost its resonance. Here we are in mid-July 2021 with a global death toll passing the 4 million mark, and alarming reports about the highly contagious delta variant, the looming epsilon variant, urgent pleas (and even mandates) from the French president and the Italian prime minister to get vaccinated, crazy mixed messages in the UK, confusion about mask-wearing in the US, and dramatic upsurges in countries (like Indonesia this time) with low vaccination rates and limited access to available vaccine doses. At least there is a renewed effort to work things through the COVAX Facility, both with regard to the more equitable distribution of available vaccine doses and, quite encouragingly, to increasing and diversifying the manufacturing capacity for vaccines but also for therapeutics and diagnostics. Here are my personal impressions of what this means for global and multi-stakeholder collaboration. Continue reading “Whither COVAX? A Progress Report on the Vision of Global and Multi-stakeholder Collaboration”
As of today, 21 July 2021, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that we have entered the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in France. Less than two months ago we were eagerly phasing out of the lockdown measures of the third wave -ending the curfews, lifting the face mask requirements and mandatory forms and time limits for activities outside the home, gradually opening up the restaurants (outdoor dining only), fitness centers, museums, theaters, shopping centers and non-essential retail establishments. Although we are no longer being called upon to reinstate any of these lockdown measures (at least not yet), the Prime Minister has described this fourth wave as worse than any of the previous three waves, with a “faster and steeper slope” in the spread of the virus than any of the previous waves. Who expected this? How is it affecting us personally here at Villa Ndio? Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: 6. Entering (Early) the Fourth Wave in France (July 2021)”
What follows here is my first commentary on electoral politics in France. It will be part of an ongoing series of commentaries to explore a number of specific settings – I have chosen France, India and the US – where democracy might be seen to be in jeopardy. I started this series with a general commentary on democracy in jeopardy (available here), and I will be linking the specific case studies to this overall perspective from time to time. Although I am an American who is a voter there but not in either France or India, I write these commentaries as an interested observer who has studied and written about electoral politics academically. Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: French Regional Elections”
The shock of Trump lingers among those of us – of which I am one – who had not fully understood that democratic societies are not permanent fixtures in the political scheme of things. In an effort to record my own appreciation of the fluidity of democracy, I have decided to start a running series of commentaries on “Democracy in Jeopardy”. They will include three case studies of how democracies are being challenged today – case studies in which I am personally interested – the Bengali elections in India, the PACA regional elections in France, and the statewide elections in the American state of Virginia. They all involve “sub-national” elections that are occurring this year (2021), with significant national implications for the future of democracy in each country. But first, I start the series here with some personal reflections on why I am inspired to write about the overall issue of democracy in jeopardy. Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: A Running Series of Commentaries on the US, France and India”
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to feature a lively debate on the balancing of scientific and policy perspectives – most recently on the search for verifiable evidence on the origins of this particular coronavirus. From the beginning of the pandemic, I have been writing commentaries on the importance of applying both a political lens and a scientific lens to the management of the pandemic. At the time, we were all understandably concerned about the risk of political actions that were clearly contrary to the scientific evidence. But that should not have led us away from the value of incorporating the science into a workable political framework for collaborative action. I still embrace the need for balance – combining the scientific guidance on who needs to wear a mask, for example, with political guidance on how this should be implemented in specific circumstances.
A second interest of mine has been to write about the remarkable flowering of global and multi-stakeholder collaboration that the pandemic has inspired – in vaccine development most strikingly but also in the efforts to ensure global sharing of vaccines and therapeutic needs. In fact, the multi-stakeholder nature of this collaboration has been a particular focus of my ongoing commentaries.
With these themes in mind, I have started a compendium here of the proposals and actions that continue to inspire me to write about the global and multi-stakeholder response to the pandemic. This list will be regularly updated.
The fluidity of the pandemic was vividly apparent last week when we all heard about the sharp and unexpected reversal of the previous US position in support of intellectual property rights at the World Trade Organization. I had just expressed my own assumption a couple of days before, that the crisis that was unfolding in India (and in South America) was wreaking havoc on the COVAX Facility and on the very premise of an equitable and global response to the pandemic. And here came another dramatic change in the policy landscape – one that has inspired me to look more optimistically on the future of the global path after all! I am a bit more optimistic about the prospects for the COVAX Facility under the circumstances, even if the waiver announcement from the White House may seem to work against the interests of a global response through the COVAX Facility. Continue reading “Whither COVAX? (updated with optimism)”
So much has happened on the “living with a pandemic” front since I recorded the way of things back in October 2020. I’ve written other musings since then, of course, on November as the month of memorials or the traditional Christmas greetings in December, and even a thing or two about the gender perspective both locally and globally since then. But I realized the other day that we are gradually moving out of yet a third confinement and into the hopeful anticipation of a post-pandemic lifestyle, at least here in France, without my having written down the typical diary kind of record of “living with the pandemic” that I had originally envisioned doing. I was so struck by its transformative significance back there in the 2020 days of what I described then as the “new March madness”. And I know that much of it is very mundane, but still, I did intend to have a sort of personal record of what I consider to be pivotal moments for me and for my family in the evolution of this horrific pandemic. Let’s hope we don’t forget its significance. Continue reading “Pandemic Musings: 5. The Uncertainties of Lockdown Living: Musings at the End of the Third Wave (in France, 7 May 2021)”
Up until now, I have been speaking up for a global response to the pandemic – a globally defined, equitable sharing of all the tools we can possibly find by working together. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative that was launched by the WHO a year ago is the prime example of this approach. I have been especially enthusiastic about the COVAX Facility that was launched as a part of this initiative to bring countries together to pool available vaccines for a globally equitable distribution based on population. But the huge surge in India upends the formula for the equitable sharing of available vaccines. It may well be that the formula had already lost traction because of the rationale for dealing with the second and third waves of serious outbreaks in the US and Europe. For me, though, it is the Indian surge that has led me to question the whole business of how we can achieve vaccine equity. It has become far more than a question of the equitable distribution of an existing but limited supply of vaccines; it has also become a question of how to dramatically – and rapidly – expand the actual supply. Continue reading “Whither COVAX?”
Vaccine Nationalism appears in multiple forms, it seems. And it is unlikely that popular support for a global perspective will ever expand to counter any of it. At least not for the current pandemic. Here is a personal story – but one that is accompanied by a note about the global context – and a lamentation. It’s all about a new bargain – a regional one, not necessarily a global one – for another 1 billion doses of vaccines (good news) – not for just anybody in need but for certain groups of people in need; not for now but for a year and a half or more from now; not for the sake of humanitarian concern but for the sake of shared national interests. Some might speculate that it’s all about US versus China, while others might insist that it isn’t. But it also has repercussions for global concerns spilling over into economic recovery from the pandemic, climate change, gender equality and even the future of global technology trends. Continue reading “Personal Lamentations on Vaccine Nationalism”
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, unsurprisingly, is “Women Leading the Fight against COVID-19”. Well, it seems to have been a bit of a tradition to honor accomplished women on this day, and we can all agree that women are very much involved in leading the fight against COVID-19, right? So where are they? The accomplished women, that is. In the sciences? Physicians? Well, there is at least one we know about, Ôzlem Tûreci, co-founder of BioNTech, right? And in the political world? What ever happened to Deborah Birx? And yes, there was a flurry of publicity early on that countries with women as head of state or government were doing better than their male counterparts – Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand or Angela Merkel in Germany. But I would rather we had a focus this year on the women “happeners” in the fight against COVID-19, and I don’t mean something as “patronizing” as praising women in the traditional ways that emphasize their gentle and selfless nature or their beauty or their unquestioning endurance. Continue reading “IWD 2021: Happenings and Gender in the Pandemic”