Sep 8, 2021 - Podcasts

Looking to new vaccines for a way out of COVID

Here in the U.S., the COVID vaccine conversation has mostly been focused on Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J. But with Delta's stronghold on much of the U.S., Axios’ health care business reporter Bob Herman reports that we should be paying attention to other emerging vaccines.

  • Plus, Mexico moves to decriminalize abortion.
  • And, Latino voters' role in deciding the fate of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Guests: Telemundo Noticias' Marina Franco, Axios' Bob Herman and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Wednesday, September 8th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what you need to know today: Mexico moves to decriminalize abortion. Plus, Latino voters’ role in deciding the fate of California Governor Gavin Newsom. But first, looking to new vaccines for a way out of Covid... is today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Here in the U.S., the COVID vaccine conversation has mostly been focused on Pfizer, Moderna, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines. But with Delta's strong hold on much of the U.S., Axios’ health care business reporter Bob Herman reports we might need to look to other emerging vaccines, and he's here to tell us more about that. Hey, Bob.

BOB HERMAN: Hey, Niala.

NIALA: Bob, I remember way back in the beginning, we were talking about all the other vaccine manufacturers. Where are they at this stage in the pandemic?

BOB: So there's about six or seven vaccines that are being used globally. Obviously more are being studied in a trial right now, because even with this number of different vaccines, we're still not even remotely close to fully vaccinating the world. So I think there's quite a bit of pressure to, uh, find a vaccine that-that can just be more widely distributed.

NIALA: We have been talking so much about Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson. There's another vaccine you've been watching … Corbevax?

BOB: So this vaccine Corbevax was developed in Texas. And, they're already licensing out the technology. It's undergoing clinical trials and the great benefit is that Corbevax uses traditional vaccine technology that's used in the Hepatitis B vaccine, for example, instead of the newer, more expensive technology. So, that could be scaled up quickly. And the other good news is researchers say it's very cheap. It could be a $1.50 a dose.

NIALA: Is the Biden administration paying attention to the Corbevax?

BOB: So far, not really. The researchers have tried asking the administration to get involved, and not a whole lot has panned out yet. So I think there's a role for the U.S. to play here. Researchers have been getting interest from other countries for this vaccine. In India, for example, less than 20% of its population is fully vaccinated. A large manufacturer in India is already making this Corbevax at risk. So India is already very interested in this.

NIALA: Bob, do you think with the Delta variant with all the conversation in the U.S. about a booster, have we lost sight of the fact that vaccines are still the pandemic’s endgame here?

BOB: Yeah, I-you know, the vaccines were made with the intent of preventing or reducing death and severe illness. And by pretty much all accounts, the vaccines are still doing that. If you're vaccinated, it's very unlikely you'll be hospitalized with COVID-19. And it's very unlikely you'll die from COVID as a result. So the COVID vaccines are still a smashing success, according to many infectious diseases and vaccine researchers out there. They're working, they're doing their job. And I think there's almost like a messaging problem. I think we can equate it to maybe even the flu shot. You get your flu shot every year. There's still a chance you can get the flu, but you get your flu shot so you don't die or get hospitalized from it.

NIALA: Which is a good reminder because the CDC is recommending that everyone get their flu shots before the end of October. Bob Herman is Axios’ health care business reporter. Thank you for being with us.

BOB: Thanks, Niala. I appreciate it.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with big news out of Mexico on abortion.


NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. While fallout from the abortion ban in Texas continues here in the U.S., the Mexican Supreme Court yesterday took a step in the opposite direction, unanimously voting to decriminalize abortion across the country. Marina Franco joins us now with the latest from Mexico City. Hi Marina, this was in response to a law that had passed in a particular state. Can you tell us about this case?

MARINA: Hi Niala. Yes. Uh, this is a law in the state of Coahuila, which, ironically borders Texas. And, the state had basically said that any person who elected to get an abortion or anyone who aided them would get at least one year in prison. And the federal attorney's office, in 2017, said that that law should not stand. And so it went to the Supreme Court and the decision was made until now.

NIALA: So are there people who are imprisoned in Mexico for having had or helped with an abortion?

MARINA: Yes. Estimates range about 200 women are currently, or have been, imprisoned across the country either because they've voluntarily, uh, decided to abort, even if it's not legal in their state, or even if they had a miscarriage and they were charged with murder.

NIALA: How is this case different from Roe vs. Wade here in the U S.?

MARINA: This decision is different because it's not about legalizing abortion. It's about decriminalizing it. Here in Mexico, you can go to jail if you decide to abort. And now the court is saying that laws that impose those sort of criminal sanctions should not stand. So the decision was made, because the justices stated that having these criminal sanctions would violate basic liberties regarding reproductive rights and the right to self-determination. Whereas in the U.S., it was mostly the rights to privacy of what a woman ended up choosing. So here it's more encompassing, and also the justices here in Mexico stressed during their decision that this should apply not only to women who identify as such, but to whomever is able to carry a pregnancy. So that becomes explicitly inclusive of trans people and non-binary people as well.

NIALA: Marina Franco is a reporter for Telemundo and also co-writes the Axios Latino newsletter, which is now out two times a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Thank you, Marina.

MARINA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: In less than a week, voters in California will decide whether or not Governor Gavin Newsom gets to keep his job. The recall election is set for September 14th, and it’s the latest in a string of efforts by the GOP to oust the Democratic governor. And now, new polling shows Newsom is gaining support among a key group - Latino voters. A new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California shows two thirds of likely Latino voters said they oppose the recall. Axios’ race and justice reporter Russell Contreras is here now with the numbers. Good morning Russ.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Great to be with you.

NIALA: Russ, why does this particular group of voters matter for Newsom?

RUSSELL: Well, Hispanics are the largest ethnic group right now in California. They comprise approximately 28% of registered voters, and in many cases, you cannot win a statewide election without grabbing a significant portion of Latino voters’ support. So his fate will be decided on how many Latinos go to the polls.

NIALA: And how has support for Newsom changed among Latino voters?

RUSSELL: Well just a few weeks ago, there was a poll out that suggested the majority of Latinos favored the recall. This sent alarm among Democrats and progressive activists in California - it’s a deeply blue state - that they were losing a key demographic in a recall. So Newsom stepped up his support, stepped up his campaign in Latino communities. He highlighted the support of very important key Latino figures, including United Farm Workers’ co-founder, Delores Huerta, who says it was important for Latinos to rally around Gavin Newsom.

NIALA: So the big question is, is this enough to tip the scales? Will it depend on Latino voter turnout in the recall?

RUSSELL: Well, it remains to be seen. What we do know is that he needs to get a significant portion of Latinos to have a comfortable recall victory, that is: voters rejecting the recall question.

NIALA: Axios’ race and justice reporter Russell Contraras. Thank you, Russell.

RUSSELL: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Before we go today - some promising news all the way from Mars! NASA has confirmed that its rover, Perseverance, has successfully collected its first sample of Martian rock. That sample along with others will eventually make its way to earth for scientists to study. It’s a big step toward better understanding the red planet - and whether there was ever life there. And that’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or reach out to me on twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893.I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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