Tony Nash joins Rahul Tandon at the BBC Business Matters podcast and they discussed worries about the Covid vaccine AstraZeneca in Texas. Also discussed during the show are prevalence of electric cars in the street of America — is it now a more common scenario? And with Volkswagen and other car manufacturers jumping on the electric car making, what will be Tesla’s future now? Lastly, Oscars this year and next.
This podcast was published on March 16, 2021 and the original source can be found at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172x1999n85jh0
BBC Business Matters Description:
The WHO’s conclusion came after several European countries have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, including France and Germany. But as the numbers of Covid-19 cases rise in Europe, what will this mean for the vaccine rollout? We speak to epidemiologist Dr Maria Sundaram.
Volkswagen has announced plans to increase its car battery production and charging network across Europe, the US and China. Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield is a tech journalist who specialises in electric vehicles, and was watching VW’s announcement.
Also in the programme, with obesity believed to be a major factor in which countries have the worst Covid-19 death rates, the BBC’s Manuela Saragosa reports on whether it could mark a moment of reckoning for food and beverage businesses, in terms of making their products more healthy.
Plus, the shortlist for this year’s Oscars has been released. KJ Matthews is an entertainment reporter in Los Angeles, and tells us what this year’s selection says about the impact of the pandemic on filmmaking, and progress made towards diversity in the industry.
Rahul Tandon is joined throughout the programme by Karen Lema, Reuters bureau chief for the Philippines – who’s in Manila, and Tony Nash, chief economist at Complete Intelligence in Houston, Texas.
RT: Tony, when you when you hear that from Karen, the U.S. is moving on with great speed when it comes to vaccination. Incredible numbers there. Are you seeing that in Texas as well, or is there a bit of vaccine hesitancy in Texas?
TN: I think there’s there’s a bit of both. So we in Texas, we’ve given about eight point three million doses of the vaccine. We have something like three million people who have been fully vaccinated. People are prioritized if they want to get vaccinated. Vaccines are available. We’ve had about almost 10 million doses shipped to Texas. People who want it are signing up and getting it.
RT: When you look at what’s happening in Europe at the moment, AstraZeneca is vaccine hasn’t been cleared yet in the U.S., even though I think you have 100 million doses that you’ve bought, what do you make of them? What do you think Americans make of what’s happening with AstraZeneca in this part of the world?
TN: I think most people honestly look at the Covid vaccine and believe it’s kind of all the same thing. And but I also think that communications around what it actually does could have been clear and could have been better. And also the fact that this is such an early vaccine, I’m not sure that the risks have been highlighted. The person you interviewed talked about the risk communications. I’m not sure that was really done very well. I think it’s been positioned as only the benefits. But it’s really hard knowing that it’s such a young drug. And so I don’t blame the people who are worried about it because these are really innovative drugs. That’s great. It’s amazing, but they’re pretty untested. And so it makes sense that people are worried.
RT: Tony, you’re in Texas, a part of the world that, of course, we associate with oil very much the emergence of the electric car. It’s something that we’re going to see a lot more of on the road. Does that cause concern in Texas?
TN: No, Tesla just moved a big facility here. So Tesla now has its largest facility in Austin, Texas. So we have oil and gas firms and electric car firms here. So like it or not, Texas is the future.
RT: You always like to tell us that here on on Business Matters, but some of the things that Volkswagen is talking about are going to be a challenge to Tesla because they do have huge pockets which could see them challenge Tesla as the leader in this particular facility.
TN: Tesla had a head start among the big guys, but the big guys have distribution networks, they have maintenance networks, they have a lot of things that Tesla doesn’t really have. I think that as you have the Volkswagen’s, the Toyotas and other guys really come in a big, big way, along with these national charging networks and and other stations, I think we’ll start to see a lot of competition with Tesla. Not that I’m rooting for this, but it’s possible that Tesla is brought down to earth in terms of expectations. So it’s seen as a normal, as other car companies become electric car companies.
RT: Can I come back to you quickly here, because we’ve talked to you about it. How many you had that cold snap in Texas recently, heavily covid, where there was a lot of homes that were allowed without electricity for a long period of time. I was just reading an article which said that electric cars could have helped in that situation because people could have used some of the battery power. Do you think that is something that people will look at in the future?
TN: It’s an electric car. It’s just a big battery with four wheels and a couple of computers. So, you could have pulled your car into your home and potentially used that as a generator as needed. In fact, some people use old Tesla batteries as backup power for their homes, though, use solar panels, power up their Tesla battery and use it to power their homes. So they could have been helpful. But whether it’s an electric car or just a backup battery or a generator, it would all kind of achieve the same thing.
RT: And just paint a picture for us when you’re out there on the open roads. What do you see around you at the moment? Is it a lot of four by fours? Are we seeing more electric cars?
TN: Well, we’re definitely seeing more electric cars. I wouldn’t say they’re uncommon at all. They are more in affluent areas and you’re still seeing a lot of trucks and that sort of thing. So it’s a mixed. But, yes, electric cars are becoming a larger portion of the overall mix.
RT: And, Tony, if I can come to you here first, the U.S., one of the countries that’s really suffering from obesity levels at over 40 percent of the population at the moment post the pandemic, even during the pandemic. Are we seeing a much bigger debate about obesity taking place?
TN: I don’t really see people here talking about it. I think you’ll be shunned if you bring up obesity as a potential causal or coincidental factor. So I’m glad that the discussion is happening in Europe and I think it’s a healthy one to have.
RT: Do you see I mean, one does want to stereotype, but when you think of Texas, you probably don’t think the most healthy food. Is that a fair comment?
TN: I’ll be careful here. You could say that we’ve got all kinds of food here. People were farmers, right. And they burned a lot of calories during the day. So they ate hardier food. And, yeah, the traditional southern food is pretty rich.
RT: Yeah. I must say, listening to that report, I now come to regret the two pieces of cheesecake I had prior to the program. I am probably in the overweight. What about things like sugar taxes? Because this obesity is having a huge impact on health care health systems, isn’t it, on health care services as well? Would sugar tax work? What can we do to persuade people to try and eat more healthily?
TN: It is. But I think it would be a punitive tax disproportionately affecting people who can’t afford to eat healthier food. I think it’s really problematic whether people either can’t afford to eat better food or choose not to. And so I think things like a sugar tax, people need to eat what they want to eat. They suffer the consequences. And that sounds maybe dismissive. But I think, people need to take care of their own bodies and they need to choose what they eat.
RT: But sometimes we have to step in. I mean, in the same ways as government stepped in with smoking, if obesity is going to have a huge impact on people’s health, a huge impact on our health care services.
TN: But part of the reason people stop smoking is because insurance rates, health insurance rates went up dramatically if you’re a smoker. So if you’re obese, if your health insurance goes up dramatically, then that would be a huge disincentive to be obese. There are taxes on cigarettes. So kind of tobacco consumption plays both sides of that coin.
RT: K.J. Matthews is looking forward to this year’s Oscars. I’ve seen the trial of the Chicago some very good. I don’t see many of the others on that list to have you, Tony.
TN: No, I haven’t I don’t know how I missed them all, but I missed a lot of them.
RT: Never mind. We’ll make sure that, you know, before your next appearance and you can review them for the fact that we’re seeing a more diverse list of nominations there, Tony. That just reflects the changing nature of the industry, doesn’t it, that we see a lot more black as we see a lot more women directing films, and that’s a good thing?
TN: My youngest son is ethnically Indian and he’s also an actor. And so when I see stuff like this, I think of him and I think, great, he’s got a shot at awards and roles just like anyone else.
RT: Do you worry that when he entered the profession that he wouldn’t get so many roles?
TN: And I always find that. So yeah.
RT: But because of his background, because of that side of his background, did you worry more?
TN: Well, yeah, absolutely. So even right now, he’s in a play and he was cast in a role that wouldn’t necessarily have an Indian in that role. And he was so good they cast him, which warms my heart. So, I expect him to be as good or better than anybody. I don’t care what color they are. And if he’s not as good or better than them, then he shouldn’t get the role. It’s just it’s a tough business, right?
RT: I was saying this is clearly a chip off the old block. If he’s quite good at that. I think every part of the world loves movies, then they very quickly turn into and on good for the streaming services this year because of the pandemic. Do you think we could see the studios hitting back next year when when we have the Oscars, if things do get better?
TN: They could. It really all depends on how things go and how cinemas and all this works, but yeah, I can see him heading back. Absolutely.
RT: Well, let’s see what happens with the Oscars next year. Let’s see who wins this year at the Oscars.