The case for vaccinating the world — before it's too late

Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as Victoria Legerwood-Rivera, an Attendance Counselor at Stoddert Elementary School in Washington, D.C., receives a COVID-19 vaccine during an event with President Joe Biden, celebrating the 50 millionth COVID-19 vaccination Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Epidemiologists from dozens of countries around the world issued a loud warning Tuesday that failure to ensure global administration of Covid-19 vaccines within the next year—at the very latest—could allow vaccine-resistant variants to spread among unprotected populations to such an extent that current shots are rendered ineffective.

According to a new People's Vaccine Alliance survey of 77 leading epidemiologists from 28 countries, two-thirds said they believe the international community has "a year or less" before Covid-19 mutations proliferate widely enough to make a majority of first-generation vaccines ineffective, requiring the production of new or modified shots—an opportunity that the pharmaceutical industry is already preparing to seize.

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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