Free Trade

Like COVID-19 Vaccines? Thank Globalization!

The scientific and medical knowledge used to develop and distribute the vaccines is not, thankfully, trapped within national borders.


With the first federal approval for a COVID-19 vaccine potentially just days away, Vice President Mike Pence took a bit of a victory lap during a speech in Memphis on Thursday.

"Only in America," Pence said, "could you see the kind of innovation that's resulted in the development of a vaccine in record time."

That is at least a less ostentatious framing than the one Pence's boss has used. Last week, President Donald Trump told The Washington Post, "Don't let Joe Biden take credit for the vaccinebecause the vaccines were me." But the nationalist view of the vaccine breakthrough similarly ignores reality.

Yes, American technological ingenuity and medical know-how have been crucial, but the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are the results of a global effort. The scientific and medical knowledge used to develop the vaccines is not, thankfully, trapped within national borders. Perhaps even more importantly at this stage, the manufacturing and rapid distribution of those same vaccines will rely on global supply chains that some in the Trump administration would prefer to tear up.

There is no single nation—and certainly no single person—capable of reaching this point so quickly.

Indeed, the Trump administration's much-self-ballyhooed "Operation Warp Speed," the massive public-private partnership aimed at accelerating the production and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, was not launched until May. Pfizer didn't strike its nearly $2 billion pre-purchase agreement with the federal government until July. But both vaccines were already under development months earlier.

That speedy development was made possible by globalization. Pfizer is a multinational company headquartered in Germany and the United States—but most of its vaccine production is done in Belgium, using supply chains that extend to Egypt, China, America, and elsewhere. The company is run by a Greek immigrant, Albert Bourla. BioNTech, Pfizer's partner in the COVID-19 vaccine development project, is a German company founded and run by a Turkish immigrant, Ugur Sahin.

Moderna is an American-based company run by a French immigrant, Stéphane Bancel, and was founded by the child of Armenian parents living in Lebanon. Like Pfizer, it depends on global supply chains for vaccine production, raising capital, making sales, and doing all the other things a modern pharmaceutical company must do to be successful.

But the companies developing vaccines are really only part of this story. Once distribution begins—and in some places, it already has—humanity will be relying on a complex network of international shipping and logistics companies to get doses where they need to go.

These are not new—and they were certainly not created by government fiat. As The Wall Street Journal noted this week, they are in many cases the same channels used to deliver iPhones and PlayStations. Those networks weren't created so they could someday be used to deliver lifesaving vaccines. They were created because the market demanded faster access to cheaper, better goods—and now they will be used to deliver lifesaving vaccines too.

McKesson Corporation, the drug wholesaler that's been tapped by the federal government to handle vaccine distribution in America, will be able to do the job because it has spent years building and refining its operations to maximize profit. Global distribution of the Pfizer vaccine will be handled by companies including DHL, UPS, and Lufthansa—and the same is true for each of them. Imagine the disaster we'd be facing if national governments had to do all this instead, or if each of those companies was only allowed to operate on one side of national borders.

The vaccines are some of the greatest examples of the intangible benefits of globalization, says Scott Lincicome, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and former trade attorney. While critics of globalization like to focus on things like cheap T-shirts and other consumer goods, he says, it is the very networks developed for the delivery of those goods that will now speed vaccines to every corner of the globe.

"At no point did some public official snap his or her fingers and order the creation of these global networks," Lincicome tells Reason. "We take all this for granted because it developed naturally, invisibly over the course of decades. None of this dropped out of the sky in February."

The COVID-19 vaccines are in some ways extreme examples, but they are not far from ordinary. All modern vaccines and many advanced medical treatments are the results of global supply chains and the sharing of knowledge that's made possible by trade and immigration. The impulse to isolate America from those global networks—an impulse that reared its ugly head in many ways during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic—would not make America or the world any safer. It would leave humanity less capable of countering these major challenges.

In a way, however, Pence was right. It is American values—capitalism, chiefly—that made it possible for vaccines to be made and distributed so quickly around the world by multinational businesses.

We will have COVID-19 vaccines in spite of the nationalists, not because of them.

NEXT: Many Epidemiologists Want Social Distancing and Masks Forever—Even After the Vaccine

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    2. Yup. Poor boehm and his commie nonsense.

      The two vaccine leaders are coming out of the USA.

      I wont be taking a vaccine for a germ with a death rate of <1% anyway.

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    1. I thought surely this was sarcastic.


      Fertility, pregnancy and lactation

      Pregnancy There are no or limited amount of data from the use of COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2. Animal reproductive toxicity studies have not been completed. COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 is not recommended during pregnancy. For women of childbearing age, pregnancy should be excluded before vaccination. In addition, women of childbearing age should be advised to avoid pregnancy for at least 2 months after their second dose.


      It is unknown whether COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 is excreted in human milk. A risk to the newborns/infants cannot be excluded. COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 should not be used during breast-feeding.


      It is unknown whether COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 has an impact on fertility.

      1. Hopefully the third vaccine they’ve announced will pan out because it’s not an mRNA vaccine, so should be safer for pregnant women.

      2. Its also unknown whether it has effects on children, and it almost assuredly does have worst effects than the virus.

        But I’m sure the population control sociopaths behind won’t try to force children and pregnant women to take it anyway

        1. Personally, I will be going off the grid before I let them try to force mine to take it. Not joking


      During the advisory meeting last week, Patsy Stinchfield, a Children’s Minnesota nurse practitioner, said officials and drugmakers could try talking about the side effects in a more positive way. She said they could use language such as “response” instead of “adverse reaction.”

      “These are immune responses,” said Stinchfield, a past voting member of the committee. “And so if you feel something after vaccination, you should expect to feel that. When you do, it’s normal to have some arm soreness or fatigue, some body aches and maybe even a fever. It sounds like in some of these trials, maybe even having to stay home from work.”

      1. Lie back and think of Mother Gaia

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  3. Yeah we shall see buddy how effective this really is. I suspect the same globalists like playing footsie with neo marxists a little too much. It might behoove them to keep us in line a little longer so the grift machine becomes fully set in stone. Whatever happens the American experiment in democracy is now over.

  4. RESIST!
    Not my president.

  5. The above is an example of how Reason exploits every issue to make a political point.
    Let me disprove it.

    ” but the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are the result of a global effort.”

    “”Only in America,” Pence said, “could you see the kind of innovation that’s resulted in the development of a vaccine in record time.””

    Unfortunately for Boehm, “innovation” is not the same as “effort”
    That’s like saying those who built the car factories where cars are made actually constitute effort in car innovation.

  6. and then…. the FDA will sit on it for a few weeks before even considering allowing people to get it.

    1. And then, the real fun begins, as the committees are already disagreeing on vaccine priorities. The National Academy of Sciences and others want to prioritize those at high risk of death from Covid, starting with health care workers, then nursing home residents, then others over 65. This would save the most lives, everyone agrees. A CDC committee wants to prioritize “essential” workers – but 70 percent of the population falls into that group. They admit there’ll be more deaths this way but don’t care because they say case numbers will go down more quickly. But if 40 percent of those who get Covid are asymptomatic and another big group are mildly symptomatic, doesn’t it matter more to reduce deaths rather than cases?

      With this brewing debacle, I no longer see the vaccines as any kind of a hope of saving lives or ending the misery this pandemic has caused for so many. I hope the people posting on here saying we’re on the verge of herd immunity are right, because for the highly-vulnerable, that seems to be the only hope they’ve got left.

  7. >We will have COVID-19 vaccines in spite of the nationalists, not because of them.

    dude I think the anti-vaxxers are your audience more than *the nationalists* … also you write for the wrong employer

  8. Make America Great Again! No foreign commie vaccines! Trump won by landslide! Build the wall!

    1. You’re such a stupid and mendacious fuck you think those things are negatives.

      Make America Great Again!
      Really Brandyfuck? You like the idea of a miserable, zero growth America, where only the 1% make bank instead?

      No foreign commie vaccines!
      Yeah, pretty sure that it was you lefties squawking about ‘Putin’s vaccine’ when Russia announced it in September.

      Trump won by landslide!
      He did, and you stupid shits are in the process of destroying your democracy by letting the DNC get away with it.

      Build the wall!
      Sage advice. Keep Shikha out.

    2. Stop stealing sarcs lane.

      1. What do you have against drafting?

  9. Like companies and governments getting in bed with each other?
    Like treaty driven anticompetitive practices?
    Like Banana Republics?
    Like blood for oil?
    Think Davos and the Great Reset is a force for good?

    tHaNk gL0bALiSm

    1. Build back better!

  10. How long before Boehm writes a column specifically calling for world government?

    1. Just think of the possibilities for trade!

    2. Pretty sure he already has… hasn’t he?

  11. Thats not what globalism is boehm…

  12. Duh, globalization is why the virus escaped Wuhan to begin with.

    I hope you didn’t get paid to write this really really stupid take.

  13. Why does everyone here despise Globalization so much? Is life not exorbitantly better because of Globalization? Globalization is pretty much written into our DNA as human beings, just accept it and move forward. My sage advice: It’s easier and more enjoyable if you don’t struggle.

    1. Naivete is strong in you. Try researching the intentions behind globalism as defined through government. It is to remove power even further from the common man.

      1. Could be satire, especially that last line.
        Although its so hard to tell anymore.

      2. Yeah those guys in China making cheap plastic shit that entertains children… Damn the globalist for making that happen! Curse them!

        1. Pretty sure the “intentions behind globalism as defined through government” isn’t about getting cheap plastic shit from China. Or raising the living standards for those Chinese workers.

        2. The totalitarian Chinese government is using the sale of “cheap plastic shit” to buy up US companies, US politicians, US debt, US real estate, and US intellectual property. It’s part of their strategy to become the dominant world power again. That has nothing to do with globalization or free trade.

    2. Global Trade – Okay. Global Authoritarian Government NOT OKAY!

      It’s humorous how so many seem to think the world revolves around Gov-Gods.

    3. People think the guys they elect should represent them. Globalization has positives and negatives. Government jerks turn a blind eye to the negatives and the suffering of the people experiencing those negatives.

      They add up their spreadsheets and see the positive number at the bottom and forget they are also supposed to represent the people suffering due to some of the negative numbers along the way.

    4. Why does everyone here despise Globalization so much? Is life not exorbitantly better because of Globalization?

      No, it is not. Life is exorbitantly better because of a few nations with individual liberties, free market economies, secure borders, and largely free trade among them.

      Most of the countries on this planet are totalitarian shitholes, foremost among them China, India, and much of South America. If we globalize, we open our borders to those countries, and that destroys everything we have achieved.

  14. I don’t like the vaccines, but I do like the oppressive authoritarianism of my betters telling me what’s for my own good, and it’s so much nicer when my betters are from shithole countries that have no experience with the First Amendment or liberty or individualism or any other such nonsense as nationalistic Americanism.

  15. Leave it to Boehm to paint the farthest fetched narratives ever to image when it comes to national borders. Say Boehm why don’t you move to china and go “erase” their borders so we can all invade China next and STEAL and consume all their resources!

    1. Why would he want to do that? There aren’t any white people in China.

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  16. The speed at which vaccines have been developed against coronavirus is staggering, and yet, equally as staggering, is the speed at which one has jumped through regulatory hoops. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRHA), Britain’s respected drug authority, has approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and it is set to be deployed as soon as next week. As the rapid rollout begins, all eyes will be on the process of immunity.

  17. Stay at home stay safe and also follow the Coronavirus Disease (COVID 19) Guidelines according to WHO.

  18. In the 21st century, free global exchange of scientific ideas does not require “globalization”. It doesn’t even require travel.

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