The US was a world leader in vaccination. What went wrong?

“The United States started its vaccination drive with a structural advantage. It had the most generous supply of Covid vaccines, along with Israel, thanks to investments made to procure doses before the vaccines were approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration.”

“Demographics may also be holding the US back to a degree. America has more young people than most Western European countries: About 16 percent of Germany’s population is under 18 versus about 22 percent of the US’s, to give one example. Children under 12 are still not eligible for vaccines in the US (or anywhere else), which may be partly depressing its vaccination share.
But there is more to the story than supply quirks or demographic trends.

Compared to a country like Portugal, now a world leader in Covid vaccinations, the United States’ vaccination rates for its eligible population are not particularly strong, either. In Portugal, 99 percent of people over age 65 are fully vaccinated; in the US, the share is closer to 80 percent. Those disparities persist in the younger age cohorts: 85 percent of Portuguese people ages 25 to 49 are fully vaccinated versus less than 70 percent of the Americans in the same age range.

Another big difference that explains that divergence is one of culture and politics. Covid vaccinations have become, like so much of America’s pandemic response, polarized along political lines. As of July, 86 percent of Democrats said they were vaccinated, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, while only 54 percent of Republicans said the same. One in five Republicans said they would “definitely not” get the vaccine.

“This political divide over vaccines has contributed to the US falling behind European countries when it comes to coverage levels,” Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told me.

There are pockets of vaccine hesitancy in Europe, especially in Germany and France, but nothing on the scale of what we have seen in the United States. In Portugal, as reflected in its exemplary vaccination rate, skeptics have a very low public profile.

“We don’t need to convince people to get vaccinated,” Gonçalo Figueiredo Augusto, who studies public health at NOVA University Lisbon, told me over Zoom. “People want to.””

Afghan takeover reminds Europe: It has no unified refugee plan

“Six years ago, the European Union descended into in-fighting as it struggled to process asylum seekers fleeing war-torn Syria. Over 1 million refugees and migrants crossed the sea to reach Europe in 2015.

Officials vowed to reform, to create a system that would process and distribute asylum seekers efficiently across the Continent. Next time, they wanted to be prepared.

That never happened.”

Joe Biden and the E.U. Move To Lift Trump’s Food Tariffs

“During his first presidential visit to Europe, President Joe Biden and his European Union counterparts..hammered out an important agreement to suspend pointless retaliatory tariffs targeting a host of foods. The Washington Postcalled [the] agreement, which suspends the tariffs for five years, “a significant step in calming trade relations after the fury of the Trump years.””

“It leaves some non-food tariffs still in place. And the agreement could evaporate after five years—or sooner if the E.U. violates the terms of the agreement, notes senior Biden administration official Katherine Tai. This..agreement also doesn’t impact equally lousy Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods. And, in the wake of Brexit, while the E.U. and the United Kingdom are busy playing tariff games that hurt members of each bloc—including Irish dairy and whiskey producers—there’s always the chance new tariffs could arise and target the United States.”

The EU can now punish human rights violators all over the world

“the EU signed off on a law that will give the bloc the power to ban travel and freeze assets of individuals and entities involved or associated with violating human rights, including genocide, slavery, extrajudicial arrests and killings, gender-based violence, human trafficking, and other abuses that are “widespread, systematic or are otherwise of serious concern.”

The EU’s adoption of this law is a big deal, both symbolically and practically. One of the European Union’s foundational principles is a commitment to human rights, democracy, and rule of law. But it has sometimes fallen short. This new tool will put some heft behind those commitments.

All 27 EU member states agreed — including some of the democratic-backsliding countries in the bloc like Hungary, which previously held up attempts to pass this kind of EU-wide law.

Practically, this gives the EU a lot more flexibility in whom and what it can target for rights violations. Previously, the EU was mostly limited to applying sanctions in country-specific situations, like a conflict, as in Syria, or for certain issues like terrorism or cyberattacks.

Since this law applies to all EU member states, it cuts violators off from a lot of travel — including nice vacation destinations on, say, the French Riviera — and from accessing and locating assets.”