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The Year Ahead 2021

How Might COVID-19 Change the World?

If the world’s peoples join together, under compulsion, to defeat COVID-19, they may learn a lesson. They may become motivated to join together to combat more dangerous global threats like climate change, resource depletion, and inequality.

LOS ANGELES – Today, COVID-19 is devastating the world. It’s in the process of infecting many (perhaps even most) of us, killing some, shutting down our normal social relations, halting most international travel, and clobbering our economies and trade. What will the world be like a few years from now, after this acute crisis has waned?

There’s a widespread assumption that vaccines will soon protect us against COVID-19. Alas, that prospect remains very uncertain. Scientists in many countries – China, the United States, Russia, Britain, and others – have been racing to develop effective COVID-19 vaccines, and the first are just starting to become available. That suggests a worst-case scenario, a best-case scenario, and everything in between.

There are already many signs of an incipient worst-case scenario. Even though some countries have developed, tested, and begun to distribute an effective vaccine, 7.7 billion doses for the world’s 7.7 billion people cannot be manufactured and distributed worldwide overnight. Initially, supplies will be scarce. Who will get those first coveted doses? Common-sense proposals stipulate that the first doses must be reserved for medical personnel, because everybody else needs those medical personnel to administer the doses to the rest of us, and to take care of sick people. Among those of us who are not medical personnel, rich, influential people can be expected to find ways to acquire doses before poor, uninfluential people.

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