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Tom vonReichbauer, Sunrun CFO joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel with the latest on their Q1 earnings report.
ZACK GUZMAN: --want to spotlight the action we're continuing to see play out in the companies that have manufactured vaccines here attached to that effort, under pressure again after news broke yesterday of the Biden administration backing the idea of waiving vaccine patent protections in talks with the World Health Organization. It comes at a time when we have seen the vaccination rate here in the US continue to decline over the last few weeks. Earlier this week, we saw less than a million per day administered across the country.
For more on that slowdown and where we're at in the race against the pandemic, I want to bring in our next guest, Dr. Tom Tsai, Harvard Global Health Institute Senior Fellow in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Assistant Professor, joins us right now. Dr. Tsai, good to be chatting with you again. When you look at that slowdown, I wonder how much of it might be tied back to some of the jitters around J&J that we saw and how worried you are at losing some steam here.
TOM TSAI: Zack, great to be with you. I think we have reached already the [AUDIO OUT] so those who are eager to receive the vaccines. It's a very important goal for the Biden administration to increase the vaccination rate to over 70% of the US population. But now this phase requires hard work. And it's really about that last mile of getting shots into people's arms and people to the vaccination sites. And it's been very encouraging that the multi pronged strategy that's been announced, including same-day appointments at pharmacies, increased outreach to rural health clinics-- all those are important strategies to really help us increase the vaccination rates in the United States.
AKIKO FUJITA: We saw a big reaction yesterday on the markets on the back of President Biden waiving the patents for the drug makers here in the US. Certainly the big concern right now is the availability of vaccines, especially in developing countries. What's your sense on how quickly some of this production can scale up now that those patents have been waived, and to what extent is that going to address the kinds of problems we're seeing right now in places like India?
TOM TSAI: Right. I think the waiving-- at least the expression of interest from the US trade representative to waive the intellectual property around the vaccines is a first step. But the vaccines in terms of producing them is more than just intellectual property, especially the mRNA vaccines. There's already a shortage of some of the precursor materials, the lipids that's needed to package them. And even we saw in the United States early production mishaps at some of the production facilities in producing the vaccine. So it's a complicated supply chain, a complicated manufacturing process.
All that said, though, this is an important recognition on the part of the administration that this is a truly global pandemic and that we need to ensure that there is equitable vaccine access not just within our country, but to the rest of the world as well. So it's an important step. It still requires several hurdles that have to be jumped over, including approval by the EU and the rest of the international community. But it really does move the conversation forward so we can start thinking about how to augment the supply chain in order to ramp up production for the rest of the country.
I am very concerned though, especially with the wide outbreak in India currently, which is a major vaccine producer-- it has committed to vaccine production through the COVAX collaborative for other low and middle-income countries that the size of the outbreak there has an economic consequence which may have ripple-down effects in terms of vaccine access to other parts of the world.
ZACK GUZMAN: How so? We talk so much about production there. What do you see playing out there in the short term?
TOM TSAI: Yeah, I'm very concerned about what's unfolding in India. And it's a cautionary tale. India initially had a very robust response through the lockdown, which, again, has had some unintended consequences in terms of the economic consequences of the early lockdown. But it did decrease their spread of COVID-19. And now we're seeing over 4,000 deaths a day in India, over 400,000 cases a day.
And India is accounting for almost half of the world's cases currently. So hospitals are running out of oxygen supplies. So it really is a very dire situation in India. But again, as we've seen over the course of the last year, what happens in one place in the US can quickly spread to other parts of the world and vice versa. The virus does not respect any boundaries, whether it's local, national, or international. So this does require a warp speed mentality not just about US vaccinations, but really about a global response to the pandemic.
AKIKO FUJITA: And Doctor, going back to what you said earlier about trying to get the rest of the population vaccinated, we heard from the CDC that the virus could be under control this summer if people get vaccinated and are careful, which is a lot of really key ifs here. How close are we to be able to call this pandemic, for lack of a better word, over? How has that timeline shifted as we've seen the rate of vaccination slow down and more and more people who are hesitant step back and say, I'm not ready yet?
TOM TSAI: I think the thinking around the pandemic is rapidly evolving. And in the history of science, it's been written that pandemics end on a whimper, not a bang. And I think we're starting to see that there isn't this clear, [? desultory ?] finish to the pandemic. And it's this gradual ebb and flow of cases. And fortunately for us, it's heading in the right direction.
What we're seeing is that it's no longer just enough to think about the pandemic as one thing. With all the different variants of concern, effectively, we have multiple epidemics where the current epidemic is easing in the United States because of the wide vaccination rollout, which is very effective against multiple strains or variants of concern. But we're seeing that there will likely be new emergence of potential variants which then turn into variants of concern.
So it is not an end to the pandemic, but there is a changing notion that this pandemic will turn into an endemic disease like the cold or the flu. So how do we prepare for the new future as opposed to waiting for a very abrupt end to the pandemic?
AKIKO FUJITA: Really important context. There Dr. Tom Tsai, Harvard Global Health Institute Senior Fellow, it's good to talk to you today. I appreciate your time.