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Agree to Disagree COVID Series

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Covid is the pandemic threatening our world right now. But the pandemic of misinformation is proving similarly disastrous.

Intelligence Squared brings you “Agree to Disagree: COVID Series,” answering the important questions about the disease and the vaccines in a time when the truth is under attack.

Who owns the vaccine?

India and South Africa have petitioned the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines. These nations – along with a coalition of scholars, activists, and nonprofit organizations – argue that developing nations are at risk of waiting years to get full access to the vaccines unless these protections are lifted. But their opponents say suspending patent protections will do little to speed up the manufacturing process. Instead, undermining these protections will ensure that the next time the world needs an emergency vaccine, governments and pharmaceuticals will be unable to act as swiftly. It’s a debate emblematic of the uneven vaccine rollout, and strikes at the core of society’s ability to act quickly.  In this episode of Agree to Disagree, John Donvan sits with Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations and Brook Baker, law professor at Northeastern University and senior policy analyst at Health GAP, to debate the future of vaccine patents.

Do we need vaccine passports?

Will you need a digital passport to prove you’ve been vaccinated the next time you try to board a flight or get into a concert? The idea is already being tested in Israel and governments around the world – including the Biden administration – are exploring what vaccine credentials might look like. For some, these digital tools are a golden ticket back to “normal” life. But for others, these tools raise dire concerns about privacy, civil rights, and equitable access. In this episode of Agree to Disagree, John Donvan sits with Peter Baldwin, history professor from UCLA, and Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at ACLU, to debate the future of vaccine passports.

Can employers and schools require vaccines?

As more and more Americans become vaccinated, schools, employers, and health care facilities are facing a tough decision: Will they require students, employees, and care givers to get the jab? Some cite safety concerns – particularly when dealing with vulnerable populations – and call it a necessary step to return to normal. Others argue these sorts of mandates violate individual rights, could expose recipients to potential dangers from the vaccines themselves, and set dangerous broader precedents when it comes to government overreach in public health. It is an especially timely question that pits health concerns up against ideals of personal liberty. And it has practical implications as societies emerge from lockdown. Having it out in the public square, Intelligence Squared host John Donvan sits with Michael J. Anderson, a Wisconsin attorney who has represented employees resisting vaccine mandates, and Lawrence Gostin, a professor of law at Georgetown University, to debate the future of vaccine mandates.

Are booster shots unethical?

The boosters are rolling out. In some countries, authorities are providing additional Covid-19 vaccines with the goal of bolstering immune systems and shoring up their economies. Yet a debate about fairness is growing. Billions of people haven gotten at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, though much of the planet remains unvaccinated, beleaguered by lingering scarcities and difficultly of transport. It’s wrong to give extra shots when so many haven’t gotten their first. Not so, say others. Places like the U.S. were not only global hotspots for the viral transmission, but they also remain as core threats to the global economy with the increased threat and spread of Covid variants. Though getting the rest of the globe vaccinated is critically important, it is unrealistic, they argue, for political leaders to ignore these threats to their own populations. John Donvan sits with Vin Gupta, pulmonologist and professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner and emergency physician, to debate the future of vaccine boosters.

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