Covid-19 and Vaccine News: Live Updates
Here’s what you need to know:Health care workers waiting to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Johannesburg in March.Credit…Themba Hadebe/Associated PressOnly seven African nations, most of them small, are expected to meet the World Health Organization’s goal that every country worldwide vaccinate 10 percent of its people against the coronavirus by September. It is a dire prospect for a continent where vaccine supplies are being quickly depleted, and governments are battling a resurgence in infections.The W.H.O. said on Thursday that inoculation coverage remained at about 2 percent continentwide — and about 1 percent in sub-Saharan Africa — even as some rich nations across the world have administered shots to a majority of their people.To achieve the 10 percent target for every country on the continent, Africa would need an extra 225 million doses, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the W.H.O. regional director for Africa. In total, nine out of 10 African nations will miss out on this global vaccination goal, the agency estimated.The seven countries likely to meet the goal are Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, Morocco, Sao Tome and Principe, the Seychelles and Zimbabwe. An additional six countries — Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda and Tunisia — could reach the target if they receive enough supply to keep up with their current pace of vaccination, the W.H.O. said.“This will really require a massive effort,” Dr. Moeti acknowledged, saying that “without a significant boost” in the availability of vaccines, “many African lives are at stake.”The announcement came as Africa is set to surpass five million virus cases, with Covid having claimed 133,000 lives so far, according to official statistics. While testing is often limited, known cases have also increased, with 94,145 new ones reported in the past week — a 26 percent increase from the previous week, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Countries including Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia have reported a surge in cases, while some, such as Uganda, have reintroduced lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus. The Africa C.D.C. also said that deaths on the continent increased by 2 percent over the past week, and many more countries have reported detecting the variants first reported in Britain, India and South Africa. As cases and deaths rise, many nations have reported exhausting most of the vaccines they received through Covax, a global vaccine initiative. The W.HO. said that 14 African nations had utilized 80 percent to 100 percent of their doses.Still, only 35.9 million Covid vaccine doses have been administered on the continent, according to the Africa C.D.C., with the majority given in a few countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa, and in the Western Sahara region. Burundi, Eritrea and Tanzania have yet to give a single shot, while Chad and Togo only started administering doses last week.While some countries have faced shortages, others have not been rolling out campaigns quickly. Twenty nations have used less than half of their doses, the W.H.O. estimated, while 12 nations have more than 10 percent of their doses facing expiration.But on Thursday, both the W.H.O. and the Africa C.D.C. welcomed President Biden’s decision to donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to poorer nations, including those in the African Union. Countries like France and corporations like Mastercard have also promised to finance, deliver or help produce Covid vaccines in Africa.“It’s a monumental step forward,” Dr. Moeti said of the U.S. effort, which Mr. Biden announced in Europe on Thursday. “We are now seeing wealthy nations begin to turn promises into action. The hope of a shared future without Covid-19 is starting to shine a little bit more brightly.”The vaccines are set to start shipping in August, with 200 million doses set for delivery by the end of this year, while the other 300 million will be delivered early next year, according to a White House fact sheet.Dr. John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa C.D.C., welcomed the decision but said that he did not know when or how many vaccines Africa would receive. He urged member states to prepare storage facilities for the Pfizer vaccine and prioritize big cities once those doses arrive. He gave the example of Rwanda, which he said had received over 102,000 Pfizer doses and rolled them out quickly.“We have to use a combination of vaccines to win this battle against Covid-19,” Mr. Nkengasong said at a news conference on Thursday. “We are at war and you go to war with what you have, not what you need.”The Celebrity Millennium, left, docked on the island of St. Maarten, last week.Credit…Jean Vallette for The New York TimesJust as cruises resume after more than a year on pause, the industry is facing an immediate setback.Two passengers sharing a stateroom aboard the Celebrity Millennium, operated by Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Cruises from the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday. The ship, billed as the first fully-vaccinated cruise in North America, has one more day at sea on Friday before returning to St. Maarten to disembark.All guests will take an antigen test as part of their disembarkation process, said Susan Lomax, the company’s associate vice president for global public relations.In a statement, the cruise line said that the passengers tested positive during required testing before leaving the ship. The travelers are asymptomatic and are in isolation under observation by a medical team. Testing and contact tracing is in place for close contacts.The ship’s 650 crew members and 600 or so passengers (including a New York Times reporter) were required to be vaccinated before boarding, and had to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours before sailing from St. Maarten last Saturday.Two passengers on a Mediterranean cruise operated by MSC Cruises also tested positive. Both passengers on the MSC Seaside were asymptomatic when they tested positive during routine testing two days ago, the communications manager Paige Rosenthal said. Immediately after testing positive, the two passengers, who were not traveling together, were isolated along with their parties. They all disembarked in Syracuse, Sicily.All passengers on the vessel were required to take two coronavirus tests before boarding; vaccines were not required.The major cruise lines are preparing to restart operations from U.S. ports this summer. Celebrity Edge is poised to be the first, sailing out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 26, with all crew and at least 95 percent of passengers fully vaccinated, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, cruise ships were sites of some of the largest concentrations of coronavirus cases. The return of cruises and large gatherings such as conferences is a sign that the pandemic is ending in the United States, as the steady pace of vaccinations — 43 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 52 percent have received at least one dose, according to a New York Times database — gives some event organizers the confidence to resume business.This month, Bitcoin 2021, a business conference dedicated to the digital currency, sold 12,000 tickets and attracted thousands more to Miami for a week of panels, parties, networking and deal making. It was the first major business conference since the pandemic and the largest Bitcoin conference ever.In the days after the event, several attendees announced on Twitter that they had tested positive for the coronavirus. Others shared stories of their peers testing positive.Everyone who I hung out with in Miami got covid. Luckily for me I hung out about one feet above everyone— Larry Cermak (@lawmaster) June 10, 2021
The event attracted Bitcoin enthusiasts from around the world, including some countries that do not yet have easy access to vaccines. Most events took place inside a large, crowded warehouse, and facial coverings were rare. Vaccines were not required to attend.John Riggins, head of operations at BTC Media, which ran the conference, said that the company had not heard directly from any attendee who tested positive. The company is monitoring the situation and will follow recommendations from the C.D.C., he said.“Vaccines have been freely available for months in the U.S., to the extent that anyone who wanted to be vaccinated could have been so by the time of the event,” Mr. Riggins wrote in an email.“We provided all attendees with the current recommendations of the C.D.C. and state of Florida and expressed to our audience that those who were high risk or hadn’t been vaccinated should consider waiting until next year,” he added.This week, the first major trade show in the United States since the pandemic started, The World of Concrete, is being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event typically draws more than 60,000 industry professionals from around the world.President Biden, right, with Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, at Carbis Bay, England, on Thursday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesThe leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies are expected to pledge one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poor and middle-income countries on Friday as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022.The stakes could hardly be higher.“This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can,” President Biden said in a speech in England on Thursday evening, before the meeting of the Group of 7 wealthy democracies. “When we see people hurting and suffering anywhere around the world, we seek to help any way we can.”It is not just a race to save lives, restart economies and lift restrictions that continue to take an immeasurable toll on people around the globe.Since Mr. Biden landed in Europe for the start of his first presidential trip abroad on Wednesday, he has made it clear that this is a moment when democracies must prove that they can rise to meet the world’s gravest challenges. And they must do so in a way the world can see, as autocrats and strongmen — particularly in Russia and China — promote their systems of governance as superior.Yet the notion of “vaccine diplomacy” can easily be intertwined with “vaccine nationalism,” which the World Health Organization has warned could ultimately limit the global availability of vaccines.When Mr. Biden announced on Thursday that the U.S. would donate of 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, the president said they would be provided with “no strings attached.”“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic,” he said. “That’s it. Period.”But even as wealthy democracies move to step up their efforts, the scale of the challenge is enormous.Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program, still remains underfunded and billions of doses short.The International Monetary Fund estimates that it will cost about $50 billion to help the developing world bring the pandemic to an end. In addition to the countless lives saved, the I.M.F. says that such an investment could bring a dramatic return: $9 trillion in increased global economic growth.While the pandemic is at the center of Friday’s G7 agenda, with the leaders of the nations meeting face to face for the first time since the coronavirus essentially put a stop to handshake diplomacy, a host of other issues are also on the table.Finance leaders from the G7 agreed last week to back a new global minimum tax rate of at least 15 percent that companies would have to pay regardless of where they locate their headquarters.Beyond the specific issues, the summit will be a test of how institutions created in another era to help guide the world through crises can stand up to the challenges of today.On Thursday, Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain turned to a World War II-era document to provide inspiration for a new generation of challenges, renewing the Atlantic Charter eight decades after it was signed to take into account the threats of today: from cyberattacks to nuclear, climate to public health.The gathering of the G7 is also, in many ways, a relic of another era. It was created in the 1970s to provide economic solutions after a shock in oil supply triggered a financial crisis.Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said in a preview of the conference on Thursday that the “return of the United States to the global arena” would help strengthen the “rules-based system” and that the leaders of the G7 were “united and determined to protect and to promote our values.”Miriam Leah Zisman, who is expecting her first child, was discouraged from getting vaccinated by the conversations in her Orthodox Jewish community.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York TimesIn April, rumors began swirling in some New York City neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish communities about how the Covid-19 vaccine could pose a threat to women’s fertility.In WhatsApp groups, recordings of rabbis warning against what they said were the vaccine’s adverse effects proliferated among mothers of teenage girls who don’t want their daughters vaccinated.There is no current evidence that any vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems. Many prominent mainstream Orthodox leaders in the New York region and in Israel, where the virus has all but disappeared, have advised their communities to get the Covid-19 shots.But in ultra-Orthodox circles in New York — where women marry at a younger age and birthrates dwarf those of the general population — the spread of unsubstantiated rumors about the coronavirus vaccine’s potential adverse effects on fertility and pregnancy have been particularly effective in dissuading young women from getting the vaccine. These neighborhoods have some of the lowest vaccination rates in New York City.A concern for New York officials is that vaccine resistance in Orthodox neighborhoods could play a part in endangering the city’s long-term prospects for recovery.A nurse administering a Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, last month.Credit…Khasar Sandag for The New York TimesAs the leaders of wealthy Western democracies step up their efforts to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the world, they are also racing to catch up with China’s moves to establish itself as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.Last summer, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, heralded the promise of a Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine as a global public good. So far, he appears to be making good on that pledge.China now leads the world in exporting Covid-19 vaccines, cementing its bid to be a major player in global public health. The country’s vaccines have been rolled out to 95 countries, which have received more than 260 million doses, according to Bridge Consulting, a Beijing-based consultancy.The World Health Organization recently approved the vaccines made by Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac for emergency use, giving Beijing’s reputation a further boost.So far, China has taken a mainly country-by-country approach in doling out its vaccines. The country has given only 10 million doses to Covax, though it has independently donated 22 million doses and independently sold 742 million doses, according to Bridge Consulting. Many of the donations were made to developing nations in Africa and Asia.“China is picking countries that could potentially be coming back to China for more things in the future,” said Sara Davies, a professor of international relations specializing in global health diplomacy at Griffith University in Australia. “This is the start of a long-term relationship.”But there are questions about the Chinese vaccines’ effectiveness, in particular those made by Sinopharm, a state-owned company. Countries that have vaccinated their populations widely with the Sinopharm vaccine such as the Seychelles and Mongolia have had new surges of the coronavirus.The global rollout has also been dogged by delayed deliveries. China is struggling to manufacture enough doses of its two-shot vaccines to meet the needs of its 1.4 billion people and its customers abroad.In April, Turkey’s health minister said that one reason for the country’s slow vaccination campaign was that Sinovac, a Chinese vaccine maker, did not comply with a promised delivery schedule.“This is not because of lack of production, but it is because Chinese government is using the vaccines for its own country,” the minister, Fahrettin Koca, was quoted in the Turkish press as saying.In a regular news briefing on Thursday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the United States to act quickly on its pledge to donate 500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. The spokesman, Wang Wenbin, criticized Washington for initially wanting to keep the doses for people in the United States.Mr. Wang called on countries undertaking vaccine research and development to “assume their responsibility” and support Covax, the global alliance backed by the World Health Organization to ensure that developing countries get access to affordable vaccines.“As we all know, until recently, the U.S. has been stressing that its top priority with vaccines is its domestic rollout,” Mr. Wang said. “Now that it has announced donation to Covax, we hope it will honor its commitment as soon as possible.”Alexandra Stevenson contributed reporting, and Elsie Chen contributed research.Listen to ‘The Daily’: Why Russia Is Exporting So Much VaccineMillions of doses of Russia’s pioneering coronavirus vaccine have gone abroad, strengthening the country’s influence at the expense of its people.transcriptBack to The DailytranscriptListen to ‘The Daily’: Why Russia Is Exporting So Much VaccineHosted by Sabrina Tavernise; produced by Rachelle Bonja, Rachel Quester, Alexandra Leigh Young and Leslye Davis; edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Lisa Chow; and engineered by Chris Wood. Special thanks to Sophia Kishkovsky.Millions of doses of Russia’s pioneering coronavirus vaccine have gone abroad, strengthening the country’s influence at the expense of its people.michael barbaroFrom The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.Today: When Russia developed a vaccine against Covid-19, it prioritized exporting it to dozens of foreign countries at the expense of its own people. Sabrina Tavernise spoke with our colleague, Andrew Kramer, about how Russia is attempting to use its vaccine to improve its strength and standing on the world stage.[music]It’s Monday, April 26.sabrina taverniseAndrew.andrew kramerSabrina, hello.sabrina taverniseHi. So why are we talking about Russia and vaccines?andrew kramerWell, this came as a surprise to I think a lot of people in 2020 when the pandemic began.archived recordingThe Russian government is saying it’s on track to approve a coronavirus vaccine in August, well ahead of other countries, including the U.S., the U.K.andrew kramerRussia very quickly announced that it was developing a vaccine against the coronavirus.archived recordingThe sheer speed at which Russian scientists have been able to develop this vaccine has raised a lot of eyebrows across the world.andrew kramerThere was skepticism. There was certainly the feeling that that’s not likely to be much of a success given the disorganized state of Russian science. But by the middle of the year, they had already announced a working vaccine.archived recordingRussia’s Sputnik vaccine is 91.4 percent effective according to the manufacturer. It’s got emergency clearance in 15 nations.andrew kramerIf you look at the history, though, it’s less of a surprise.sabrina taverniseTell me about the history, what do you mean?andrew kramerWell, the story really starts in the aftermath of World War I when the Soviet Union encountered quite a lot of infectious disease throughout its territory. One of the main focuses was confronting the bubonic plague. It seems like a ghost from the Middle Ages, but this was actually a serious problem in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. And the country set up what were called sanitary epidemiological stations, the equivalent of the C.D.C. in the United States. There were field stations to detect and contain infectious diseases. There was a lot of resources put into this. And by the 1930s, a Soviet effort to control infectious diseases had really focused on vaccines. And by the end of this decade, the Soviet Union was a global leader in virology and vaccine development, but it was not alone. The U.S. had also been through the Spanish flu and had been forced to develop expertise in vaccines and was making strides in this science, so that both the Soviet Union and the United States were very proficient in vaccine development.sabrina taverniseSo these two countries were the global leaders in vaccines.andrew kramerThat’s right. Particularly coming out of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States were the global leaders in vaccine science. And the real concern in the late 1940s was polio.archived recordingThis year the enemy, poliomyelitis, struck with such impact and fury that it shook the entire nation.andrew kramerPolio was the most frightening disease around.archived recordingIt has closed the gates on normal childhood. It has swept our beaches, stilled our boats and emptied our pockets.andrew kramerIt was the number one killer of children. And it has spread rapidly after the chaos of World War II.archived recordingThere has been no escape, no immunity, for this is epidemic.andrew kramerThere were devastating polio outbreaks in the United States as well as in the Soviet Union. By the mid 1950s, the Soviet Union was reporting about 22,000 polio cases a year, which was about one third of the level of polio in the United States, but was still a tremendous problem and something that was very frightening to parents because it was an incurable disease and very often resulted in paralysis and sometimes in death.sabrina taverniseSo by the 1950s, both the Soviet Union and the United States were experiencing really serious polio outbreaks. So what was the relationship between the two countries at the time?andrew kramerWell, it was complicated.archived recordingLooking at Russia, we might see it as a country to be studied. Yet we know that Russia today is regarded as a grave threat to our nation.andrew kramerThis was the beginning of the Cold War, the two countries were at odds, really, everywhere you looked.archived recordingBerlin, powderkeg of Europe, saw a mass demonstration of indoctrinated young Germans on mayday. And across the world in Japan, America stronghold in the Pacific, the busy commies were at it again.andrew kramerThere was military competition in Eastern Europe and in Southeast Asia.archived recordingThis first satellite was today successfully launched in the U.S.S.R.andrew kramerAnd the space race was just getting started at this time of the 1950s.archived recordingOn every continent and in every land, the story of Sputnik 1 dominated the front pages. The Soviets had scored a scientific first. It is a challenge that President Eisenhower has said, America must meet to survive in the space age.andrew kramerAnd there really wasn’t a whole lot of cooperation at all at this point.sabrina taverniseSo the Soviet Union and the United States are really at odds. We’re at the beginning of the Cold War. Meanwhile, polio is spreading really fast in both countries. So how do these two governments respond?andrew kramerSo the first vaccination efforts were carried out in the United States. There was an attempt to use killed — inactivated polio. Unfortunately, there was a bad batch of this polio vaccine, which infected hundreds of children in the United States and killed some of them, and created a lot of vaccine skepticism. And also, a realization that this approach to polio vaccine may not be the best and there might be a better way using a more modern technology, which was a weakened virus. But the problem was that this would require giving a live polio virus to children. And there was nobody really in the United States who wanted to run this experiment.sabrina taverniseAnd that’s because there had been this botched experiment in which children actually died.andrew kramerThat’s right. And it was even more frightening to give your child a live polio virus as opposed to something that had been inactivated or supposedly inactivated. So while the technology was developed in the United States, there just was no way to test this in the United States.sabrina taverniseWhat about the Soviet Union? What is it doing?andrew kramerWell, in the late 1950s, a Soviet delegation traveled to the United States, led by a husband and wife team of virologists, Mikhail Chumakov and Maria Voroshilova. And they visited with American scientists and asked for a sample of this new polio vaccine to bring back to the Soviet Union. Now, the American scientists sought permission. They approached the State Department and the F.B.I., which provided approval for exporting essentially a brand new medical invention to the Soviet Union. According to a study of this exchange, the Defense Department raised objections with the Soviets might use it to develop a germ warfare program. But ultimately, the decision was made that this could be provided to the scientists. There could be scientific cooperation between the two countries. And the live polio vaccine sample was carried to the Soviet Union by one account in the pocket of Mikhail Chumakov.sabrina taverniseIn the pocket?andrew kramerThat’s right. It was more casual perhaps than it would be done today. This was a potentially risky live virus. The Soviet scientists brought it to his laboratory for infectious disease, tested it, determined that it would probably be safe and effective. But then there was the next step that had to be taken. This had to be tested on children.sabrina taverniseSo what does Chumakov do?andrew kramerSo in Soviet medicine, there was a tradition that the inventor of a new technique or new medicine should try this on himself first. So he discusses this with his wife, who’s also a virologist. And they decide that they will provide the live polio vaccine to their own young children on sugar cubes.sabrina taverniseWow. That’s incredible. Their own children?andrew kramerThat’s right. And this experiment was carried out in a Moscow apartment in the late 1950s. They had their own children line up and provided them with the sugar cubes with a drop of live polio virus on them and then watch to see what would happen.sabrina taverniseAnd what did happen?andrew kramerWell, thankfully, nothing.It was a safe vaccine. They did not develop polio. What they did develop was immunity to polio because the virus was weakened and this was an effective vaccine. They took their findings based on this experiment on their own children to senior officials in the Soviet government. And as a next step, they tested the vaccine on orphans in the Baltic states, in Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania. There was a large polio outbreak in this area. And this was going to be the solution to the problem. And it was a gamble that paid off. By 1959, they had begun mass vaccinations. And in 1960, they vaccinated every person in the Soviet Union between the ages of two months and 20 years old. At the time, it was the fastest mass vaccination ever carried out. And they eliminated polio.sabrina taverniseWow. And what about the U.S.? Does it start using the new polio vaccine, too?andrew kramerSo the United States authorities agreed to approve this vaccine in the United States in 1962.archived recordingThe medical officer of health set the target, 300,000 men, women and children to be vaccinated in one week. And there’s no sore arm to worry about.andrew kramerAnd begin vaccination with live polio virus in 1963.archived recording[INAUDIBLE] treatment, two drops of vaccine make the dose [INAUDIBLE]. (SINGING) Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho, we’ll lick that polio.andrew kramerThis was a collaboration which stood out in the Cold War.archived recordingDr. Sabin recently returned from travels to Europe where his journeys took him to Soviet Russia.andrew kramerThe countries were in competition and yet —archived recording (albert b. sabin)I would say that the work on live polio virus vaccine and my associations with colleagues all over the world shows the capabilities and the possibilities of international cooperation on a large scale.andrew kramerSomehow the scientists were cooperating in solving the most feared infectious diseases of the time.sabrina taverniseSo Andrew, this is all really surprising to me. It’s an example of something that’s actually hopeful — a real collaboration — at a time when the Soviet Union is considered a superpower in the world. Of course, we know, decades later, that the Soviet Union falls apart.andrew kramerThat’s right. It was a very difficult time for Russians. Incomes plummeted. The store shelves were bare. And it was also a very difficult time for Russian scientists. What were once very prestigious jobs ended up paying just kopeks or pennies. And some scientists resorted to driving taxis, for example, to make a living. Also, abroad Russia’s international standing collapsed. The country was seen as a basket case. It was no longer one of the centers of power in the world. It was a recipient of international aid. And nonetheless, Russian scientists had a chip on their shoulder. They felt that they could achieve great things if they had resources. And Russia continue to be strong in science, and virology was one of those areas.sabrina taverniseThat’s interesting. So these Soviet scientists and then later Russian scientists, they’re still developing vaccines? They keep going?andrew kramerThey do. And they come out with announcements that nobody much believes that they’ve made progress on AIDS, for example. But then more recently, they developed a vaccine against MERS, which is very similar to the Covid-19. So when the coronavirus arrives, they’re ready to prove themselves to the world.michael barbaroWe’ll be right back.[music]sabrina taverniseSo Andrew, it’s 2020, and the coronavirus hits. Set the stage for us between the U.S. and Russia leading up to that.andrew kramerThe relationship has gone dismally. Russia’s tried in various ways to regain influence in the world. And this has led to conflict with the United States. The relationship really worsened in 2014 when Russia intervene militarily in Ukraine. In 2016, Russia interfered in the U.S. elections in the United States. And there’s also been crackdowns at home against dissidents, in particular against the movement of Alexei Navalny. The United States has responded to these moves by Russia with sanctions. And the relationship is bad now. It’s really at the worst level that it’s been since the Cold War.sabrina taverniseSo it seems pretty safe to assume that despite Russia’s history with vaccines, cooperation between the U.S. and Russia is probably pretty much out of the question, right?andrew kramerRight. There’s no question of collaboration now. The Russians begin a rush to develop a Covid vaccine as does the Western world and China. And the Russians fall back on these research institutes that have existed in their country for decades and begin developing a domestic Covid vaccine.sabrina taverniseAnd what does that actually look like on the ground in Russia?andrew kramerWell, there were a number of scientific institutes that all had vaccine ideas. And by May, an institute in Moscow seemed to be in the lead. And we learned about this because the scientist who was developing the vaccine went on television.archived recording[RUSSIAN SPEECH]andrew kramerTo make the surprise announcement that he had injected himself with a test vaccine before animal trials had been completed.sabrina taverniseOh, my goodness.archived recording[RUSSIAN SPEECH]andrew kramerThis was, of course, a harkening back to the Russian scientific tradition of inventors trying their medicine on themselves first. But it was the first of several bold announcements by the Russians in the development of the vaccine that they eventually named Sputnik V.sabrina taverniseSputnik, like the satellite?andrew kramerThat’s right. The idea of the name was that this was a surprise to the Western world. The Sputnik satellite really indicated Russia’s supremacy in science in the 1950s. And it was way ahead of the United States in the space race. The Russians said, quite explicitly, that they viewed the vaccine in the same terms. That just as the Western world had heard the beeps of the radio of the Sputnik satellites circling the Earth, and that these beeps had indicated Russia was in the lead, they felt that their vaccine would be named Sputnik to indicate that it was in fact ahead of their vaccines.sabrina taverniseSo it was a very intentional naming, a kind of glory days reference.andrew kramerExactly. And a naming that also indicated they see this as a race, as the space race. And then they took it a step further.archived recording (vladimir putin)[RUSSIAN SPEECH]andrew kramerIn August, Putin went on television and announced that he had approved the vaccine for general use.archived recording (vladimir putin)[RUSSIAN SPEECH]sabrina taverniseI do remember Putin coming out and saying they had this vaccine. But I also remember thinking it’s really early because no one else did yet. Is this real?andrew kramerIt wasn’t really real. They had not tested the vaccine in late stage trials that were necessary to prove that it’s effective and safe. This was a propaganda move. And they were going to use the vaccine as a tool of influence in the world. And they began marketing it as a vaccine for all humankind.sabrina taverniseAll right. So we’re getting new information, new data on Russia’s vaccine.andrew kramerThey did eventually put the vaccine through trials. And when the results were in December, they were very good.archived recordingIt seems to contradict the skepticism that surrounded the heralding the jab by President Vladimir Putin back in August.andrew kramerThe vaccine was more than 90 percent effective, which is comparable to the vaccines under development in the United States.archived recordingIt is one of only three vaccines with efficacy of more than 90%. Sputnik V is the vaccine for the mankind.andrew kramerCrucially, at about the same time, the Trump administration puts a ban on exports of U.S.-made vaccines, saying that the vaccines made in America should be used first to vaccinate American citizens. And this leaves Russia standing ready with a very effective vaccine.archived recordingRussia is throwing its hat in the ring to be a global savior.andrew kramerReady to make deals around the world at a time when the U.S. is not exporting any vaccine.archived recordingRussia, for one, says it’s ready to send the E.U. 100 million doses of its Sputnik vaccine.andrew kramerThe Russians don’t waste any time.archived recordingSputnik V’s global uptake is on the rise.andrew kramerThey immediately start making export arrangements.archived recordingCountries right now lining up for supplies of Sputnik V —andrew kramerSpecifically intended to undermine U.S. interest and European Union interests. And it really is setting itself up as this vaccine supplier to the bad boys club.sabrina taverniseWhat does that mean the bad boys club? Who is that?andrew kramerWell, these are countries that are at odds with the West and which Russia has sidled up to perhaps for that reason. It markets the vaccine to Cuba, to Iran, to Syria, to parts of North Africa. Russia has friendly relations with Venezuela, with Belarus. So there are a collection of countries loosely aligned with Russia. And these are relationships which Russia would like to deepen and strengthen. There are other factors at play here as well. Russia is using the vaccine to win influence in battleground countries, countries that are wavering between Russia and the West, such as Ukraine, or Hungary, for example. There’s a very strong P.R. element to vaccine diplomacy. It really flips the narrative about Russia. It’s no longer a discussion of suppressing dissidents at home or massing military forces on a border with a neighbor, for example. This is a discussion about saving lives, providing medicine that’s in great demand today.sabrina taverniseWhat’s an example, Andrew, of how one of these deals works on the ground?andrew kramerOne of the first countries that the Russians talked to was Brazil. Brazil is an important ally of the United States. It’s a major economic power in Latin America. And it was also an early target of Russian vaccine diplomacy. The U.S., we learned in January from documents released by the U.S. government, was working behind the scenes to prevent this from happening. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services disclosed that an American diplomat in Brazil had been arguing that the Brazilian government should reject the Russian vaccine because the vaccine was, in fact, seen as an agent of influence for the Russians in this important country. Now that was not a success. Brazil ultimately went with Russia for these supplies. And it illustrates well the weak hand that the United States has in vaccine diplomacy. On the ground, in situations like this, the United States has nothing to offer. The U.S. official could argue that Brazil should not take this lifesaving medicine from Russia, but they weren’t able to offer anything from the United States.sabrina taverniseAll right. I mean, U.S. sounds like it doesn’t really have a card to play, right? I mean, on what basis should Brazil not accept the Russian vaccine? There’s effectively no alternative.andrew kramerExactly. It showed the impotence of the United States in this contest that’s going on around the world over supply of vaccines. And Russia has gone from success to success in its vaccine diplomacy. For example, the European Union has been the target of a very effective vaccine diplomacy over the past several months. Two countries, Slovakia and Hungary, agreed to import Sputnik V vaccine. And this created a lot of discord within the European Union because the bloc had initially agreed to distribute vaccines equitably among its members. And they were breaking ranks with that policy. Also, the vaccine was not approved by European regulators. So this was creating discord within the European Union. And creating discord within the European Union has been a longtime goal of Russian diplomacy. And in this case, it was aided with the use of the vaccine. But it’s gone beyond that as well. The Russians have signed contracts with one region in Italy and with the state of Bavaria in Germany. So they’re winning customers now in the very heart of Europe.sabrina taverniseYeah, these are core bloc states of the E.U.andrew kramerThat’s right. And in countries that have been accepting the Russian vaccine, polls show that people trust it more than even vaccines made in the United States. For example, in Argentina and Mexico, polls have shown that more people trust the Russian made Sputnik V vaccine than American-made vaccines.sabrina taverniseThat’s surprising.andrew kramerIt is. And it’s been quite a benefit to Russia’s image around the world. Wherever we look in Russia’s vaccine diplomacy, it’s been quite effective politically and in terms of P.R. at the cost of, in fact, very small shipments of vaccine.sabrina taverniseWhat do you mean?andrew kramerFor example, only tens of thousands of doses were sent to Bolivia in Latin America.archived recordingBolivian President Luis Arce has signed a contract for the supply of the Sputnik V vaccine to fight Covid-19.andrew kramerAnd yet the president of the country came to the airport to meet the airplane that delivered them.archived recording[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]andrew kramerSometimes very small numbers of doses are sent to places that will seem to have a high impact in terms of media coverage.archived recordingWhile the rest of Europe is still struggling with the vaccination campaign, the tiny Republic of San Marino is on its way to immunize most of its citizens.andrew kramerFor example, in a staunch, Russia vaccinated the entire nation of San Marino with a population of 7,000 people.archived recordingThanks also to the use of Sputnik V, Russia’s vaccine.andrew kramerSo the numbers have been quite small, but they’ve had a very large impact politically.sabrina taverniseSo Andrew, in a way, this is making me think of how Russia has been acting ever since the Soviet Union collapsed. I mean, trying again and again on the world stage to prove it is still powerful, to prove it is still important. And these vaccines are a way to show that.andrew kramerIt also shows it in a different way than what we usually think of Russia, when we think of Russia asserting its influence. Typically, Russia is seen as a villain when it sends troops into a neighboring country like Ukraine or assassins abroad to target enemies. But in the story of vaccines, Russia has really been a savior. It’s been able to present itself as a country that’s helping the rest of the world. And in this way, it’s a form of influence which is very difficult for the West to counter, for the West to stand up against. And when the pandemic is over, it’s likely that Russia will emerge because of this vaccine diplomacy, as a country with more friends and allies than it would have had had it not pursued this course.sabrina taverniseThank you, Andrew.andrew kramerThank you very much.michael barbaroSo far, Russia has manufactured about 20 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. Of those, it has exported about four million doses or one fifth to foreign countries instead of using them on Russians. As of this past weekend, Russia has fully vaccinated just 5 percent of its people. By comparison, the United States has fully vaccinated 27 percent.[music]We’ll be right back.Here’s what else you need to know today. Over the weekend, President Biden recognized the mass killings of Armenians more than a century ago as a genocide, something never before done by an American president for fear of offending Turkey, which denies that the killings amounted to a genocide. The killings of Armenians occurred at the end of World War I during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which later became Turkey. Ottoman Turks feared that Armenians would become allies with Russia, an enemy of the Ottoman Turks, and began forced deportations and killings of Armenians to avoid that possibility. In the end, as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed. In response to Biden’s declaration, Turkey’s government vowed to defend itself against what it called “a lie.” Today’s episode was produced by Rachelle Bonja, Rachel Quester, Alexandra Leigh Young and Leslye Davis. It was edited by M.J. Davis Lin and Lisa Chow and engineered by Chris Wood. Special thanks to Sophia Kishkovsky.That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.global round upA throng of delivery riders at a McDonald’s in Bogor, Indonesia, on Wednesday. The country has one of the highest coronavirus caseloads in Asia and has seen a surge of infections in recent weeks.Credit…Aditya Aji/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesSeveral McDonald’s outlets in Indonesia were forced to close this week after a special “BTS Meal,” named for the wildly popular Korean boy band, drew crowds of delivery drivers that violated safe distancing measures, the police said.On Wednesday, the first day that the limited edition meal was available, a rush of orders was placed — but because of Covid-19, most were made online. That resulted in flocks of motorcycle delivery drivers showing up at outlets across Indonesia, with most of the restaurants unprepared to manage the turnout.In Jakarta, the capital, the police said on Wednesday that they had temporarily closed 32 McDonald’s outlets “because they were found to have violated health protocols,” including limiting capacity to 50 percent and avoiding crowds.The BTS Meal consists of nine chicken nuggets, two sauces, medium fries and a drink, and comes in a box with a purple logo. Introduced in nearly 50 other countries, it is available in Indonesia until next month.But because nearly anything related to BTS provokes a frenzy, there have been concerns that the introduction of the meal could draw crowds in some Asian countries where coronavirus cases have risen recently and where vaccination levels remain relatively low. The meal’s rollout in Singapore was delayed last month after the government tightened distancing rules, including a ban on dining in restaurants.Indonesia, which has one of the highest coronavirus caseloads in Asia, has seen a surge of infections in recent weeks as more people gathered and traveled during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. New daily cases have risen 26 percent over the last two weeks, and only 4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.Indonesian fans of the Korean band have acknowledged that delivery drivers faced long lines and possible exposure to the coronavirus to bring them their BTS Meal. Online message groups have called on customers to reward drivers with handsome tips. On Kitabisa, a crowdfunding site, several initiatives are raising money for drivers and their families.One user named Vanessa Egas asked for donations to reach a target of 25 million rupiah, about $1,750, to “repay the kindness of our brother drivers who stood in line for hours to deliver the BTS Meal.” By Friday, she had surpassed that goal and begun to disburse the funds, according to the website.In other developments from around the globe:The Philippines has begun loosening restrictions on movements across the capital, Manila, and nearby provinces, allowing a range of activities to restart, the government said on Friday. Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, announced that indoor noncontact sports venues, such as gyms, fitness studios, skating rinks and racket sport facilities, would be allowed to reopen at about 30 percent of their capacity. Historical sites and museums would also be allowed to resume operations at limited capacity, he said, but guided tours would remain prohibited. He added that older adults who had been fully vaccinated would be allowed to move more freely, with proof of inoculation.Jason Gutierrez contributed reporting.