On 15 December 2020, the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre) at RSIS hosted a webinar titled “The Science, Politics and Geopolitics of the COVID-19 Vaccine”. The webinar was delivered by Dr Khor Swee Kheng, Visiting Fellow, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH) and ISIS Malaysia Independent Consultant, World Health Organisation. Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony, Professor of International Relations and Head of the NTS Centre, moderated the webinar.
Multiple recent announcements of successful COVID-19 vaccine trials have raised expectations of a rapid end to the pandemic. Dr Khor’s presentation highlighted some of the scientific, political and geopolitical checkpoints behind the most monumental mass vaccination programme in the history of humanity. On the politics of vaccine approval, he spoke about the need to balance speed and rigour when assessing the data from clinical trials. He also discussed the strategies for first-, second- and third-generation vaccines, as well as how existing political frameworks could be used to decide who should get first access to the vaccine. He also raised concerns surrounding the dangers of unequal vaccine distribution, particularly its potential to increase global inequality.
The presentation was followed by a lively question-and-answer session to engage with roughly a hundred participants. In response to questions surrounding the opening of borders and the restarting of international travel, Dr Khor emphasised that vaccine effectiveness was only one factor in the overall equation. Other criteria such as the robustness and reliability of tracing systems within individual countries should be taken into consideration as well. On vaccine side effects and potential risks, he stressed the importance of public education to raise confidence levels and to alleviate the fears of the general population. He also spoke about possible reforms to the current pharmaceutical research model to promote more efficient and sustainable results.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: