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Yahoo News Explains: What is 'vaccine nationalism' and why should Americans care about it?

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World Health Organization officials have voiced concerns about “vaccine nationalism,” which health experts say could increase the risk of the coronavirus mutating further. But what is it? And how does it affect Americans? Dr. Dara Kass, Yahoo News medical contributor, joins us to help explain.

Video transcript

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TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: The pandemic has exposed and exploited the inequalities of our world. There is now real danger that the very tools that could help to end the pandemic-- vaccines-- may exacerbate those same inequalities. Vaccine nationalism might serve short-term political goals, but it's ultimately shortsighted and self-defeating. We will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere.

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DARA KASS: So the risk of vaccine nationalism, of only protecting ourselves and not caring about what's happening in the rest of the world, is that we could find ourselves in a position where we have done an excellent job vaccinating our citizens. Because we didn't pay attention to what was happening in other countries and the world as a wide open place, we could be dealing with new issues unnecessarily in our own backyard. Every time a virus spreads, there's a risk it could mutate. As long as this virus or any virus spreads without obstruction, it's going to continue to mutate.

Even if we vaccinated certain countries, if other countries don't have access to a vaccine, and the virus is spreading, we will expect to see mutations.

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Right now, the mutation's we're talking about are mutations that have happened in other countries. Although we are probably going to start learning more about mutations that have started here in our own backyard. Mutations that are happening because of the unrelenting and expansive spread of this virus in our communities. Now as our country gets vaccinated and the spread slows down, we may continue to see viruses and positive cases in people that are either not vaccinated, or for some reason are in the small percentage of people that may get infected, even if they don't get sick, even though they've been vaccinated.

When we have travel around the world, and when we have a global community, there is always a chance that a virus that starts on the other end of the world-- whether it be somewhere in Africa, or Australia, or in Europe, or in Asia-- could come here and take hold if they find enough either unvaccinated or vulnerable people. So the best defense we have to protect our own citizens is to make sure that the rest of the world is protected as well.

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