How will vaccine nationalism reshape globalisation?

Once we dispense with the idea that vaccine rollout will be a deus ex machina which will take us back to normality (end the story so we can begin at the beginning) we’re faced with the question of what the world will look once we move into a situation of mitigated threat and an endemic virus. How will vaccine nationalism intersect with the existing rise of nationalist populism with its powerful imaginary of protecting ‘in here’ from the threats circulating ‘out there’? I found this piece from Richard Seymour very helpful for thinking through these questions:

There is also the problem that the virus will definitely evolve. This virus has demonstrated a slower rate of mutation and evolution than others. What is more, most of the mutations would probably be disadvantageous to its virulence. However, the more the virus spreads, the more chances it has of throwing up a mutation that enhances its virulence and deadliness. This, despite Dido Harding’s embarrassing claim to the contrary, is well-understood. The government, in allowing the disease to spread as it did, bears some responsibility for enabling new strains to emerge. New strains will emerge and they will spread, through air travel and supply chains. It will be no good if some rich countries have vaccinated their citizens against the dominant strain, unless they fully intend to close their borders and shut down imports for good, which not even the most belligerent nationalist proposes to do. Among the things that the pandemic has exposed are the contradictions and futility of nationalism when the web of life is global.

There’s no putting this microbe back in the reservoir. The world is going to have to get used to an evolving Covid-19 virus, some strains of which will have a transmission advantage over those we’re used to, and will be more lethal. The government knows this, which is why they are developing a ten-year ‘endemic recovery plan‘. However, it suits them very well that the conversation should revolve around the fundamentally misleading, emotionally charged tropes of vaccine nationalism. Because if the conversation is about the government’s competence on this axis, it allows them to quietly set the agenda and the terms of any future debate, on the issue of long-term adaptation and survival.

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