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Fareed Zakaria GPS
President Biden Promises To Repair U.S. Alliances And Engage With The World. Aired 10-11 ET
Aired January 24, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the show, President Biden promises a restoration of democracy and of America's engagement with the rest of the globe.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can make America once again a leading force for good in the world.
ZAKARIA: Biden is swiftly moving away from many of the policies of the last four years. What is the reaction from American allies and competitors? We'll hear from the United Kingdom, China, Germany and Mexico.
BIDEN: We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.
ZAKARIA: Also, one year since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in America, there have been 25 million cases here since then and more than 400,000 deaths. Sanjay Gupta joins me to talk about the vaccines, the new variants and the prospect of herd immunity.
ZAKARIA: But first here's my take. President Joe Biden has many competing priorities as he begins his first term -- dealing with the pandemic, restarting the economy, reestablishing American credibility on the world stage, and competing effectively with China. But it turns out that there is one thing he can do that will address all these problems at once, vaccinate all Americans as quickly as possible.
Biden's current goal of vaccinating a million people a day is far too modest. He should double that doing whatever it takes to achieve herd immunity for the U.S. by late April or early May.
This will instantly boost America's standing and give the president leverage with everyone from the Republicans, to the Europeans to the Chinese. Right now the roll-out of the vaccine is flailing. Donald Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar predicted that 20 million Americans will be vaccinated by the end of 2020.
In fact, that number barely reached three million. The situation has improved since then but there is still chaos and confusion. The Trump administration's mishandling of the vaccine rollout follows a string of other public failures, including bungled policies on testing, tracing and isolation, as well as the supply of medical equipment. While the administration did an admirable job funding vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed, it quickly fell back into its familiar hands-off mode once the private sector pulled off that feat.
The state's whose varying standards and weak infrastructure make them ill-equipped to carry out a mass vaccination campaign have been forced to improvise with predictable consequences. And while the Trump administration has plenty of blame on its hands, this is a much larger failure.
As I write in my book, "Ten Lessons for a Post Pandemic World," the U.S. government has in recent decades become good at just one thing, writing checks. Its major endeavors have centered around tax cuts and credits, bail-outs and relief payments. The size of the COVID relief packages passed in 2020, including the money for Operation Warp Speed, was impressive. But other than dispensing cash, the federal government seems unable to administer anything.
Forty years of Reaganism, defunding, dismantling and demeaning government have taken their toll. Now the capacity of the state to undertake large and complex projects cannot be rebuilt overnight, but some things can be changed right away. The Biden team is clearly well- qualified. Perhaps as important, they believe in government and understand that getting it to work is a special challenge in the United States.
You see power in America is divided among three branches of government, dozens of federal agencies and thousands of local authorities. Corralling all these forces to work together requires strenuous persistent efforts directed by the White House every day. If you view government as a reality television show consisting mostly of symbolic gestures and signals to your base, it turns out little gets done.
The federal government has already paid for hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine.
It has the funds available to vaccinate. It should take on the task of ensuring that Americans are vaccinated and fast. The president should use every tool available from the Armed Forces to FEMA as well as partnerships with private companies like Starbucks and Federal Express. Drugstore chains, by one account, have the capacity to administer more than three million vaccines a day. This should be the equivalent of a wartime effort.
Those who have worked on mass rapid vaccination programs on developing countries argue for a truly aggressive approach. We should set up thousands of vaccination sites, many of them running 24/7, and create mobile units to reach people far from population centers. The government should spend no expense in accelerating the rollout. The effort will easily pay for itself by saving lives, driving economic input, and of course raising tax revenues along the way.
America's handling of the pandemic in general has been a disaster and is widely seen as such. In a Pew survey across 30 major countries, 84 percent of respondents agreed that the United States had bungled COVID-19. And every country believed they had done far better than the U.S. The Irish columnist Fintan O'Toole described the strange new attitude of the world towards the U.S. Not admiration or hatred or envy but for the first time pity.
In an essay in "Foreign Affairs," Samantha Power, the incoming head of U.S. Foreign Aid Programs, reminds us that the world has admired America most for its spectacular achievements. The U.S. was the arsenal of democracy during World War II, executed the Berlin airlift, put a man on the moon and created the Internet.
If the Biden administration can succeed spectacularly at the most pressing challenge currently facing the world, that will say loud and clear to everyone, America is back.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week, and let's get started.
Joe Biden has been president for fewer than 100 hours, but he's already been busy undoing some of Donald Trump's actions on the world stage. Signing executive orders to stay in the World Health Organization, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, reverse the so- called Muslim ban. We know Americans are bitterly divided on Trump's policies versus Biden's, but what is the sentiment in other parts of the world?
I have a great panel. David Miliband, the former foreign secretary of the U.K. is now president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. Wolfgang Ischinger was Germany's ambassador to the U.S. and the U.K., he is the author of an important new book "World in Danger: Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time." Jorge Castaneda, the former foreign minister of Mexico, is the author of "America Through Foreign Eyes." And the Beijing born Keyu Jin is a professor of economics at the London School of Economics.
David, let me start with you and ask you, I think the question on everyone's mind is so Biden is approaching the world and particularly the old allies with open arms. Will they reciprocate? Are people ready to welcome America back? Or is there a weariness and a -- you know, and a sense that, you know, they don't know what they're getting into?
DAVID MILIBAND, FORMER U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY: I think America remains an agenda setter, not just for allies but for competitors as well. The critical thing, though, is that I think America's allies are looking to the United States to build back different, not just build back better.
Different means and more nuanced approach to its international relationships, more stronger emphasis on partnership, and a recognition that America's task today must be to renew at home to help democracies around the world defend from what I call the age of impunity that has been creeping over the last decade. And then also to make sure that through unity, as we all leverage in the engagement with countries like China with whom there needs to be cooperation, but also competition.
I think the fact that COVID and climate have been so highlighted by President Biden, you have two critical areas where there is that room both for the unity and the cooperation as well as steely resolve.
ZAKARIA: Wolfgang, I saw that you gave -- you had a quote, I think it was in the "New York Times," where you said, look, Joe Biden knows Europe. He knows these alliances. He has a wonderful personality. He will be welcomed warmly in Europe, which may be true.
But what is striking when you look at beyond the rhetoric, in your country, Germany has been pushing for Europe to have a certain kind of strategic independence from the United States over the last four years. You look at the signing of the deal between the European Union and China, which was spearheaded by Angela Merkel and by Germany. You look at the North Stream Two Project, which is an attempt to create extensionally an energy dependence on Russia.
All this suggests that while European actions may welcome Biden -- European words may welcome Biden, European actions are a whole another thing.
WOLFGANG ISCHINGER, CHAIRMAN, MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE: I would disagree with that, Fareed. I think Europe is perfectly prepared to embrace Joe Biden, to work with the new administration. We have been lacking the three most important elements of effective international cooperation for the last several years. That's truth, trust and transparency. And my impression is, and I'm certainly not the only one here on the European side of the Atlantic, that Joe Biden personally and so many of these senior advisers and future Cabinet members that he has nominated, are perfectly qualified to rebuild trust, truth and transparency.
That is essential. And, you know, as far as Europe's capabilities and our discussions about, quote-unquote, "autonomy efforts," I think the European political leadership is perfectly aware that what we lack is our capability to be a more respectable and a more respected partner for the United States in dealing with the kinds of international challenges that we've had for many years and the ones that are now coming up over the horizon, including China.
And I want to insist, Fareed, that with respect to China, most European leaders are fully aware that if we cannot find a way to agree a transatlantic approach to how best to deal with China, we would be making a huge mistake.
ZAKARIA: So let's hear from China. Keyu Jin, I realize this is a little difficult to ask you to speak for 1.4 billion people, but what I want to ask you is, what is the mood in China now? It does seem to me from the reading and what I have been able to sense, there is a sense of confidence. China has probably handled COVID-19 from an economic point of view better than almost anybody else. I mean, the disease is almost gone.
The economy is back. It's been the fastest growing large economy in the world. Is there a confidence? Is there a sense of, you know, the Chinese model has worked and the American model has not?
KEYU JIN, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: It's not a time to discuss the superiority or advantages of various systems. The pandemic -- fight against pandemic is not over. There are new cases still in China. China has still, however, have a grip on the economy and is on a solid way to recovery. But the new Biden administration presents as a huge opportunity, which China takes seriously, to improve U.S.-China relations, to reduce the misgivings, and to really focus on areas of collaboration more than competition, for instance, on the fight for the pandemic, on climate change.
And China recognizes that the Biden team is technical, professional, rational, can hold an adult's dialogue. There is a lot of room for this -- for China through negotiations and dialogue to give a bit more to the U.S. in terms of trade and investment, and even structural changes through -- on the institutional rules. And China will be looking forward to more collaboration and to repair the relationship and really hope to have a constructive dialogue with -- you know, a constructive relationship with the U.S.
ZAKARIA: So from your point of view, the Chinese are really welcoming the change in administration.
JIN: China holds no illusion that the pressure on China will still be around, that the technological race is still on and the trials of strength will still continue.
However, the tactics will change. There will be more room to talk about, you know, a constructive, having constructive relations. But this pressure will be around and there will be, you know, working with the Biden administration to find some common ground.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us all of you. I will be back with the panel in a moment. And we will talk about one of the few world leaders who seem sad that Donald Trump has exited the stage and very worried about what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will do. Who is that? My answer when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back here on GPS with David Miliband, Wolfgang Ischinger, Jorge Castaneda, and Keyu Jin.
Jorge, explain to us the strange puzzle of the leader of Mexico, Manuel Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO in Mexico, and Donald Trump. Trump comes in denigrating, demeaning, disparaging Mexico in 100 different ways, and this left-wing populist in Mexico has found that he has a very good warm relationship with Trump and is worried about the passage of term, and the oncoming Biden administration. Why?
JORGE CASTANEDA, FORMER MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Fareed, I think two reasons. Firstly, President Lopez-Obrador really identified with Donald Trump. He said so many times or wrote so. Both of them outsiders. Both of them anti-establishment leaders. Both of them rocking the boat, trying to change the system, drain the swamp, if you like. I don't know exactly how to translate that into Spanish. But in any case, they were -- President Lopez-Obrador really had a sense of affinity, of identity, identification with Donald Trump.
And secondly, Lopez Obrador was able to make some sort of (INAUDIBLE) pact with Donald Trump whereby Mexico would do the United States' dirty work with it, essentially paying for the wall with Mexican troops on our southern border and on our northern border in Mexico, keeping the Central Americans out. And in exchange, President Trump would basically basely Lopez Obrador do whatever he wanted on macroeconomic policy, on handling the pandemic, on the rule of law, on drugs and security, on practically everything.
Even the USMCA or new trade treaty between Mexico, United States and Canada was not really very important to Trump. He never even tried to insist for Mexico to comply with its new provisions on labor, on the environment, et cetera. So for these two reasons, they got along. They identified one with the other and basically, Lopez Obrador got a free pass from the president of the United States. That's no minor event in Mexico, especially what you're doing is not necessarily what's best for Mexico and what's best for the United States.
ZAKARIA: So this is a very important point. The United States has been the key -- one key force helping Mexico to modernize over the last 25 years, to reform its economy, to improve its rule of law, to tackle the drug issue. And what you are saying is that Donald Trump has essentially said, we're no longer pressing on any of those things and Lopez Obrador has taken advantage of that, right? And in many ways Mexico is backsliding.
CASTANEDA: Well, I think it's backsliding in very many ways as you say, Fareed, on the economy contracted 9 percent last year, more than twice the U.S. percentage, more than twice the Brazilian percentage, for example. We are now up to 1500 deaths daily and these are undercounted as far as the pandemic is concerned.
Investment both domestic and foreign is off. The economy will not grow back more than 3 percent or 4 percent this year. But basically Lopez Obrador, he's driving the country into the ground. But he doesn't have the United States saying, hey, hold up, wait a second. This is not just your business. It's yours. But it's also ours.
But it is very important to recall as you said, Fareed, that, you know, the United States has bailed Mexico out many times since the '70s. 1976, '82, '88, '94, '95, the famous tequila crisis. This time if Trump had been reelected maybe they would have bailed Mexico out also, but he didn't seem to care a whole lot. But we'll have to see if Biden does engage and really begins to take a different attitude.
ZAKARIA: David Miliband, let me ask you. When you listen to the story of AMLO, a populist, when you look at Trump, this is something you had to deal with in Europe, is populism waning? Is Trump's victory -- defeat a kind of watershed moment for the decline of populism?
MILIBAND: Well, President Trump was obviously a symptom of the weakness of Western liberal democracy, as well as a cause of further weakening.
We've seen this decayed in which there's been so-called democratic recession, more than 100 countries in which democratic norms have been undermined, and the abiding theme of the Trump presidency was obviously impunity from his refusal to disclose his details to his attacks on the judiciary, and ending up with a full frontal assault on the democratic system itself.
It's clearly far too early to prescribe a death rite on Trumpism. The defeat of President Trump doesn't mean the end of Trumpism. And that's why I think there is a chance to turn the page. The most important word that President Biden has used I think is possibility. There are possibilities now that are opened up by an administration that is determined to bring public service, to bring a commitment to serve the public interest, and the commitment truth that other (INAUDIBLE) have mentioned.
But this fight against populism clearly needs to work on an economic level as well as a political level, and those silver stakes could not be higher, both for the direct economic mitigation measures that are needed but also to the vaccine's approach that you highlighted in your introduction.
President Biden needs to be able to show that he can do work on the domestic front and on the foreign policy front at the same time. There is no holiday from history yet. He's got to get a move on, on both fronts.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. When we come back, I will ask Keyu Jin about a very interesting prediction she makes about the rise of a particular kind of nationalism in China, techno-nationalism, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back again with David Miliband, Wolfgang Ischinger, Jorge Castaneda and Keyu Jin.
Keyu Jin, let me ask you about a -- a piece that you wrote which I found fascinating, in which you pointed out that the Trump administration's tough attitude towards China, particularly on technology, trying to stop other countries from buying Chinese technology, particularly in the 5G space, has produced a kind of almost bottoms-up renaissance in China.
Explain what you -- what you see there.
JIN: It's a commitment to reaching technological supremacy unseen since the days of Chairman Mao and in the 1960s when China committed to nuclear -- developing nuclear power.
It's that mobilizational of totally national resources from bottom up and top down, not tallying the cost until it -- the goals are achieved.
And we know that China is supremely efficient at mobilizing resources, as we have seen in the pandemic, combined with market economy, is going to splash a lot of cash and mobilize a lot of resources to not only achieve technological self-independence, because Trump has pushed China towards that direction, but also to reach higher goals, which is to set standards and to control servers and IPs and things like that.
China used to have a very cozy relationship in -- and comfortable in globalization. Now it has been alerted that it has to do it on its own.
ZAKARIA: Does that mean you see the -- the decoupling of technology, and so we will end up living in -- in two worlds, a Chinese technology world, with Chinese companies like Huawei, and a -- and a non-Chinese, kind of, broadly speaking Western zone?
JIN: No one is ruling out that possibility, even with a new Biden administration, although China believes that a Biden administration will try to take the American side away from creating a new Cold War and talks about decoupling.
But still, China and, I believe, the U.S. is prepared for that decoupling, technologically speaking, the possibility to happen. And it's very important for China to build the independent, critical supply chain. China still heavily relies, in terms of high-tech components, on U.S. and other countries, and it is gearing up as fast as it's possible to be completely independent.
ZAKARIA: Wolfgang, let me ask you to -- to close this discussion by just reflecting on, you know, the central question, which is, it seems to me, can this open, liberal, international world order that was created by the United States in partnership with its European allies and to a certain extent Japan and South Korea after the fall of Communism in the 1990s, can it survive, as you have America not quite as powerful as it was, a rising China and a Europe, as you point out, that is not really a purposeful strategic actor on the world stage?
Is this -- you know, we're going to run this experiment. Can this -- can this world survive these very different forces that are all tugging at it?
ISCHINGER: It can, and, quite frankly, it must. There are key areas in our international standing where we on the European side need to understand very clearly that, if we allowed the Atlantic to become wider; if we allowed NATO, for example, to disappear or to -- or to question the validity of the NATO alliance, as happened during the Trump administration, we would serious -- seriously damage our own security.
Because the fact remains, Fareed, Europe, mostly small nations, with the exception in the E.U. today of France, 27 nations without nuclear weapons, we need NATO. We need the United States.
And the second point, on, you know, technology, on the issues you were just discussing, China -- if we don't get our act together across the Atlantic on, you know, on digital trade, on digital issues, on cybersecurity, on artificial intelligence, we could -- you know, together we represent 40 percent or more of the global capabilities. We could actually remain the norm-setting entity in the world and not voluntarily give that up to this one big emerging new power by the name of China.
So I think it is a matter of necessity, of strategic intelligence, to make sure the -- the North Atlantic community, not only in the military area, survives and prepares itself for the 21st century, which will be about technology, about artificial intelligence and about data. And we can do it. We must.
ZAKARIA: Thank you all for an absolutely fascinating conversation.
Next up, all I have to say is two words: Sanjay Gupta.
ZAKARIA: Another grim COVID-19 milestone, 25 million Americans are now confirmed to have had the disease. That's one in 13 people in the country. And as the world is about to hit 100 million confirmed cases, that means that the United States, with 4 percent of the world's population, has 25 percent of the world's known cases of COVID.
Joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who has written a new book called "Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain At Any Age," which we will get to in a moment.
But I first want to welcome him on -- it's always a pleasure and it's always a way of proving to the world that we are not, in fact, the same person.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, thank you. Yes, that's an important point.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about this vaccination question because I do feel as though, I mean, people are -- you know, people are accusing me of being too tough on Biden. But we are already at 1 million vaccinations a day. And if you do the math, we will get to herd immunity sometime in the middle of 2022 if we keep at this pace. And that is Biden's goal, 1 million a day. There has to be a way for us to get to what the drug stores are
talking about, which is 3 million a day or 2 million a day. What do you see as the -- the most important path forward here?
GUPTA: Yeah. No, Fareed, I have heard your comments and I -- I completely agree with them. It's not just the number of vaccinations that are going to be important but the speed at which these vaccinations are happening.
And I've talked to people within the national pharmacy retail world, looked at these community vaccination centers that are -- that are being proposed by -- with FEMA. And, you know, the pharmacies alone can probably get to this number of 100 million vaccines a month, potentially.
They're going to need more resources. They're going to need more people who are actually the vaccinators, you know, people pushing the -- the syringes into people's arms. That was a rate-limiting step early on.
So there's things -- there's hurdles that need to be overcome. But -- but, Fareed, the -- you've got to get to this herd immunity, which is 75 percent, roughly, of people being vaccinated. But also, the longer you wait, the more the virus spreads, the more mutations accumulate.
That's a problem because some of these mutations can lead to these variants which may become increasingly resistant to the vaccines. So you have a race. You've got to do this quickly. And I think there's no question -- and I know they don't like to hear it, but as much as the last administration tended to over-promise and under-deliver, I do worry, to your point, that maybe we are under-promising, maybe with the hope of over-delivering, but regardless, we've got to move fast.
ZAKARIA: All right. Now I -- I've got to ask you about your book because this really is a terrific book. I am not a person to buy self- help books, but I have this book. I'm going to read it cover to cover.
And what I want to ask you about is, so this is basically a book about how to keep your brain healthy and active so that you don't have deterioration when you're growing old. Who does not want to accomplish this goal?
And we have a limited amount of time. So I want you to go quickly through for me. So it turns out there are no super foods and I can't take pills to make this happen, correct?
GUPTA: That's right. I mean, you know, the -- to get the good stuff out of food, you've got to eat food. It's very hard to put it in pill form, as much as we would like that.
ZAKARIA: What kind of foods?
GUPTA: Well, you know, when we talk about brain food specifically, I think that, you know, there's a -- a couple of foods that really come to the top of the list. As much as an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I think berries are going to be the food for the brain. And this is based on lots of scientific evidence, looking at how certain chemicals can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and what they do when they get to the brain.
I also think that what I learned -- and I learned a lot; I had a lot of fun writing this book over a couple of years -- is that there are certain things you absolutely shouldn't eat.
We -- we know sugar, for example; we eat way too much sugar. We used to get sugar, as human beings, just a couple of times a year when -- when fruit fell from the trees. I mean, even honey was protected by the bees. But we now eat about 130 pounds a year, on average, of sugar.
The problem, Fareed, with sugar specifically with the brain is that the insulin system, the way that the brain actually absorbs glucose in the blood, is very, very sensitive. It can be overwhelmed quickly. So if you're eating too much sugar, you could be in fact taking a lot of energy into the body and starving the brain at the same time.
So this is a -- this is a critical point, I think, when we think about long-term brain health. This may have been a particularly toxic substance in terms of causing, you know, long-term problems like dementia.
ZAKARIA: All right. You say that, rather than trying to do a crossword puzzle to improve your brain, talk to a friend. Explain what you mean.
GUPTA: Yeah. Well, you know -- and this one is -- I've gotten so much -- so much discussion about this particular topic. I think here's the way to think about it. Crossword puzzles are great. And there's lots of things that we do on a daily basis that are great. That is the "practice makes perfect" sort of adage that -- that is true when it comes to our brains.
But if you think about our brains, right now our brains are, sort of, functioning like we're living our COVID life. We spend most of our time at home, maybe go to the studio where you are, go to the grocery store, a few places. We know how to do those things really well. That's the "practice makes perfect." Crossword puzzles will make you be able to -- to get to these places very easily.
But if you want to start to expand the number of roads in your brain, the number of cities, the number of places that you visit in your brain, you have to do different things. Do doing something differently, or different, period, can make a huge difference in terms of building up overall reserve in your brain.
So, again, a crossword puzzle is fine, but if you want to do something that could actually help build reserve, taking a brisk walk with a close friend, talking about your problems, that can make a huge difference. Eating with your non-dominant hand can actually start to recruit new parts of your brain that you otherwise wouldn't use.
You have to think about this conceptually differently. Again, "practice makes perfect" has been the add damage, but change builds resilience.
GUPTA: Change builds reserve. It's a new way of thinking about how we -- how we actually improve the brain.
ZAKARIA: My last one -- I mean, there's lots more in the book, but I want to get to one because, alas, it is a reminder that "no pain, no gain." Probably the single best thing you can do for your brain is exercise your body?
GUPTA: This is -- this is probably the most evidence-proven thing when it comes to brain health. And it surprises people because you think of intellectual activities to improve your brain health. I understand that. But we know now, over the last couple of decades, you can grow new brain cells at any age. And the best way to inspire that to happen is actually through movement -- and consistent movement even more than exercise.
Fareed, the -- the human body wasn't designed to either sit or lie for 23 hours a day and then get up and go to the gym for an hour. It is consistent movement.
And the evidence actually shows that a moderate activity like a brisk walk is perhaps even better than intense activity because, with intense activity, you're also releasing a lot of stress hormones that may be counterproductive. Brisk walking, as one neuroscientist said to me, is kind of like this activity that can release miracle-grow for your brain, which I thought was really interesting.
You want these neurotrophic factors in your brain? You can't take it as a pill. You can't take it as a shot. Simply moving is your best way to get there.
ZAKARIA: Sanjay Gupta, as you can tell, this is just a terrific, fascinating book. Please go out and buy it. Thank you.
Next on "GPS," more on how to get great swaths of the American public vaccinated. I am not stopping with this. We have more lessons from around the world on how to do it.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. The Biden administration unveiled a host of new COVID-19 policies this week, providing a road map for combating the pandemic.
As I told you in my take earlier, nothing short of an aggressive, centralized effort will get vaccines into arms as quickly as they are needed.
Now, it's true that, in raw numbers, the U.S. has administered the greatest number of vaccines so far. But it has only administered five shots for every 100 people in the large, diverse and spread-out population that is America. That's by Thursday, according to CDC data.
That percentage pales in comparison to some smaller countries, all of them with existing universal and publicly funded health care systems.
Topping that ranking is Israel, where by Friday 38 doses have been injected per 100 people, 38 percent, according to government data. Yes, that country of 9 million people is tiny compared to America, but it's about the same size as New York City, which has only managed to administer six doses per 100 people as of Thursday.
There is a disagreement wrapped up in that success story over whether Israel also has a duty to vaccinate the 4.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It has not done so. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, citing different bits of international paperwork, point to the other as responsible.
The United Arab Emirates is next on the path to full immunity, with 23 doses per 100 people as of Friday. Like Israel, the UAE is small and has a universal health care system. But rather than relying on that nationalized system to pinpoint the most vulnerable groups and prioritize them, as Israel did, the vaccine is available to all adult citizens or residents on a walk-in basis at nearly 100 sites across the United Arab Emirates.
By approving the less studied Russian and Chinese vaccines, the UAE hopes it will be able to keep supply up and avoid any kinds of lockdowns, according to The Wall Street Journal.
And because the United Arab Emirates is an absolute monarchy, it can control the flow of information about the vaccines and silence naysayers.
Now, the U.S. is not the only nation looking to scale up some version of these smaller countries' logistical success. Last week India began one of the world's most ambitious vaccination efforts, with the aim of reaching a group of 300 million of the country's most exposed or vulnerable by August.
While some rural infrastructure is lacking, India already has the vaccine production infrastructure in place. Known as the world's pharmacy, India manufactures 60 percent of all the world's vaccines.
Although it lacks the kind of efficient, centralized system working in favor of those two Middle Eastern countries, it does have a national vaccination program in place that reaches 55 million people a year.
To build on this, India conducted dry runs in more than 5,000 vaccination sites across the country in the weeks leading up to the roll-out.
In its first week India did not meet its stated goals of getting enough shots into arms. And though it is picking up speed, this puts it in good company with so many other nations failing to get off the ground quickly enough.
Now, if the lessons from Israel and the UAE are any indication, the planning and national coordination that has been promised by the Biden administration on vaccinations will bring about a welcome change, and soon. Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will
see you next week.