We’re covering a major reduction in Covid-19 vaccine exports from India and a backlash in China against brands speaking out on Xinjiang.
India cuts back vaccine exports
With its own battle against the coronavirus taking a sharp turn for the worse, the Indian government is now holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses that its biggest vaccine producer, the Serum Institute of India, puts out each day.
More than 70 countries have received vaccines made in India, especially the AstraZeneca shot. But as a second wave hits home, India is drawing up its gates: The size of its shipments abroad has greatly diminished in the past two weeks, according to data from the foreign ministry.
Slowing exports could derail the world’s vaccination drive: Covax, the global initiative many low-income countries are relying on, warned of delays because of increased demand in India. Production issues at AstraZeneca facilities in Europe have led a host of countries to rely on the Serum Institute, making the company even more critical to the global vaccine supply chain.
Awkward spot: The Serum Institute has an interest in fulfilling the contracts it has signed with foreign countries. Its chief executive has been careful not to say anything negative about the pressure Prime Minister Narendra Modi is putting on him.
The numbers: India is desperate for all of the doses it can get. Infections are soaring, topping 50,000 per day, more than double the number less than two weeks ago. The country’s vaccination drive has been sluggish, with less than 4 percent of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people getting a jab.
In other developments:
AstraZeneca released new data reaffirming that its vaccine was highly effective at preventing Covid-19. The findings, showing a 76 percent efficacy rate, strengthen its scientific case but may not repair damage to its public image.
Papua New Guinea is facing a major virus surge, after months of no infections. The island nation has reported more than 4,100 cases, and 39 virus-related deaths, the vast majority of them since mid-February.
President Biden doubled the vaccine goal for his first 100 days in office to 200 million shots. The nation is on track to meet that goal.
A bout of rage from China against Western brands
H&M faces a boycott. Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Nike, Converse and Calvin Klein have lost their brand ambassadors. Burberry has had to give up an online video game partnership.
Major Western clothing brands are facing anger from Chinese consumers. Egged on by the Communist Party, Chinese online activists want to punish the companies that have joined a call to avoid using cotton produced in Xinjiang, where the authorities are repressing minorities.
Previous state pressure campaigns against Apple, Starbucks and Volkswagen ultimately failed to dent their bottom lines. But the sudden rage laid bare the vulnerability of foreign companies as tensions worsen between the West and China.
Context: There is growing evidence that cotton from Xinjiang is linked to coercive labor programs and mass internment of as many as one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other largely Muslim minorities, according to U.S. officials and rights groups. Western governments have imposed sanctions on Beijing for human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China denies the accusations.
North Korea’s show of force
After issuing warnings to the U.S. for more than a week, North Korea now appears to be done talking, our reporter writes.
On Thursday, it launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast — the first such test by the country in a year and its first significant provocation against the Biden administration.
The launch, which defied the United Nations Security Council’s ban on ballistic missile tests by North Korea, showed that Kim Jong-un was back to raising tensions to gain leverage. The ballistic missile test came a day after U.S. officials dismissed an earlier test, which occurred on Sunday, as “normal military activity.”
Quotable: “This latest North Korean missile launch is most likely a reaction to U.S. President Joe Biden’s downplaying and seeming to laugh off their weekend missile tests,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest in Washington.
Timing: The Biden administration is reviewing whether to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea with sanctions, a new round of dialogue or both. It will be a tough path: American officials fear that North Korea would simply use talks to buy time to raise its nuclear capabilities, without any intention of giving up its arsenal.
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As a science reporter for The New York Times, Apoorva Mandavilli knows the world of research, labs and technical papers. She talked to Times Insider about her career and covering the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s an excerpt.
How did you start working as a science reporter?
I went to graduate school for biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was there for four years, and I would have gotten a Ph.D. if I’d stayed one more year. But I realized that being a lab scientist was just a little too slow, a little too specific and a little too antisocial for me. I went to journalism school at N.Y.U.’s science journalism program, and I’ve been a reporter ever since. My mom is a writer. She’s a poet and a short-story writer, and I’ve been around literature my whole life. So my job has married two very different parts of my brain — science and writing.
How do you think your science training influences your work?
It’s very helpful in a lot of ways. I’m not writing about biochemistry, so the exact subject matter doesn’t help, but I understand the basics of biology. Much of my career, I’ve actually written for scientists, who can be exacting readers. They want things to be clear, but they never want things dumbed down. That has pushed me to always be accurate.
What keeps you coming back to the job?
I’ve never stopped learning. I’ve learned so much this year. Covering Covid, I’ve had to learn viral evolution and deep immunology and epidemiology. It’s just endlessly interesting.
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