Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Economy

Now that vaccines are coming, what about poor countries?

IT’S NOW just a matter of weeks before shoulders are bared, syringes primed and vaccines injected. If last year was the one that gave COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) its name and 2020 was defined by masks, gowns, and swabs, 2021 will be the year of the vial.

This being a pandemic (from the Greek word for “all people”), that welcome development presents all the usual problems of global differences in wealth, power, and equity. Rich countries have already placed their orders. Poor countries can only hope not to be left out. What should be done?

The question doesn’t just tap into the debate between nationalists and multilateralists that polarizes many Western countries. It’s also a timeless ethical conundrum. In a famous dialogue by Plato, an Athenian macho named Callicles argues that justice is merely the law of nature — meaning, of the strong. In our pandemic context: Why wouldn’t politicians in rich countries buy up the vaccines and give herd immunity to their own electorates first?

Socrates, in that conversation, counters that justice demands cooperation and a view that encompasses strong and weak alike. Translated for today: The world is better off sharing vaccines because survival shouldn’t depend on where you live.

But this purely moral case isn’t the only one to be made for cooperation. It turns out that multilateral sharing of vaccines would also save many additional lives.

A lab at Northeastern University in Boston has modeled two counterfactual scenarios of what would have happened if a vaccine had been available in March 2020. In one, the first two billion doses are snapped up by rich countries, while only the remaining billion are allocated among all others. In the second, all three billion are distributed from the start to all countries in proportion to their populations.

In the first or “uncooperative” case, the vaccine would have averted 33% of global deaths through Sept. 1. In the second or “cooperative” scenario, it would have prevented 61%. That’s a lot of lives saved — even in countries that would have had the vaccine in either scenario.

The situation is therefore a bit like the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma in game theory. If all countries cooperate, the world can achieve an optimal outcome and defeat the pandemic soon and decisively. If they don’t cooperate, COVID-19 will drag on and there’ll be many more deaths. The dilemma is that each individual country also has an incentive to “cheat,” relying on others to do the sharing while snatching all the doses it can. But this leaves the others even worse off than if no one cooperated.

In game theory, the various outcomes can be tweaked by changing the mathematical parameters. And this — at least in my interpretation — is what the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk consultancy, is now trying to do with a new report commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The nonprofit is a lead sponsor of the ACT-Accelerator, a collaborative effort between governments, companies, scientists, and philanthropists, to get tests, treatments, and of course vaccines to developing countries.

The idea is that rich donor countries pitch into a pot that funds distribution in poorer nations. But donor nations have so far ponied up only $5.1 billion. An additional $28.2 billion is needed to deliver the shots and other tools as they become available. How can we get all prisoners in this dilemma to cooperate?

By showing them that any money paid in will earn them a huge return with no downside, Eurasia Group’s report implies. The group has analyzed the geopolitical and economic costs to rich countries if the pandemic were to rage on in poor ones. These include the obvious — the impact on the Japanese economy of the Summer Olympics being canceled, say — and the oblique, such as the effects on international demand for German exports or US fracking gas.

Overall, Eurasia Group found that the economic benefit of controlling the pandemic everywhere would be $153 billion next year for the 10 top donor nations, or $466 billion over the next five years. That’s more than 10 times the amount ACT-Accelerator asks for. Moreover, if you compare the ACT-A pot to the gargantuan domestic stimulus programs rich countries have passed, it starts looking almost trivial.

Rich countries have a lot of big decisions to make in the coming weeks — whether and how fast to approve which vaccine, how to allocate scarce shots in the domestic population, how to fight disinformation by anti-vaxx conspiracy theorists, and so forth. These fights may get nasty, as I predicted in July.

But the decision about whether to include poor countries in our common human struggle against a pandemic shouldn’t be so hard. If there’s any good argument for not fully and immediately funding the ACT-Accelerator, I have yet to see it.

BLOOMBERG OPINION

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.
Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

Investing

People living in rural areas are having to travel further to find somewhere to withdraw and deposit cash free of charge, says the City...

Investing

Ministers have ruled out extending the list of workers who are exempt from self-isolation rules and warned that the August 16 date for lifting...

Economy

The House of Representatives will adopt the Senate’s version of the proposed measure taxing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO), a key lawmaker said on...

Economy

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday approved the recommendation of his pandemic task force to enforce stricter quarantine rules in Manila, the capital, and...

Economy

Thirty-seven percent of Filipinos are optimistic that their lives will improve over the next 12 months, a non-commissioned survey shows.  Of the 1,200 respondents in Social Weather Stations’...

Economy

Six electricity consumers on Friday filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, alleging that the government official has neglected his duties.  “In his five...

You May Also Like

Investing

Having a good Instagram marketing agency to back up your Instagram account is an absolute must going into the new year. With competition stronger...

Economy

US President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., will rely on ally countries to supply the bulk of the metals needed to build electric vehicles and focus on...

Investing

As a traditionally rigid insurance industry becomes bogged down by antiquated processes and operations, a handful of industry leaders are seeking to shake things...

Economy

THE Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned the public from investing or to stop any investment in a group named Maxxprofit Computer Trading...

Disclaimer: SmartRetirementReport.com, its managers, its employees, and assigns (collectively "The Company") do not make any guarantee or warranty about what is advertised above. Information provided by this website is for research purposes only and should not be considered as personalized financial advice. The Company is not affiliated with, nor does it receive compensation from, any specific security. The Company is not registered or licensed by any governing body in any jurisdiction to give investing advice or provide investment recommendation. Any investments recommended here should be taken into consideration only after consulting with your investment advisor and after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Copyright © 2021 SmartRetirementReport. All Rights Reserved.

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.



Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!