Last updated April 5, 2021
As COVID-19 vaccines are being approved and rolled out across the world, there are stark differences in countries receiving vaccines and launching vaccination campaigns that have the potential to undermine the effort to control the pandemic as well as opportunities for economic recovery. As a report co-authored by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized, “the benefits of any COVID-19 vaccine…will depend at least as much on how swiftly and broadly it is implemented and the epidemiological environment into which it is introduced as it will on the vaccine’s physiological properties.” COVID-19 has also disrupted routine immunizations around the world, reversing progress made on preventable diseases like measles and tuberculosis.
COVAX, the international effort to address the global equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, aims to secure 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 and to allocate doses to all participating countries at the same rate, proportional to their population size. Countries will receive enough doses to vaccinate up to 20% of their population and then will wait until all countries in the financing group have been offered this amount before receiving additional doses.
Economic Impact. Several reports have found that a global equitable vaccine solution would have significant economic benefits for the United States and that leaving low- and lower-middle income countries without access to a vaccine amid the pandemic would cause significant economic damage to both them and advanced economies. Rand reports that “for every $1 spent, high-income countries would get back about $4.8.”
A COVID-19 vaccine will also not be successful if people do not trust the vaccine and subsequently do not get vaccinated. Vaccination intent is on the rise with a survey of 13,500 people across Europe, Asia, and Australia finding that in November 2020 only 40% of respondents said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine while, in January 2021, more than 50% of respondents agreed they would get a vaccine if it was available that week.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also created new barriers to routine immunizations, putting millions of people around the world at risk of contracting preventable diseases. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus painted a grim picture: “Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine preventable diseases like measles.”
Written by Jessica Ritchie