Vaccine Inequity Could Cost World Economy $2.3 Trillion

Poorer, least vaccinated countries to pay the highest price, a new report says

Latin Ameriocan girl getting a COVID-19 vaccine
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Vaccine inequity could cost the global economy $2.3 trillion by 2025, with developing economies shouldering the bulk of those losses, according to a new report.

As of late August, around 60% of the populations of higher-income countries had received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, compared with just 1% of poorer populations, the report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research arm of The Economist, said.

Some of those disparities are attributed to raw material shortages and limited production capacities to make the vaccines, a lack of financing to pay for them, inadequate logistics to ship and store them, a lack of healthcare personnel to administer the shots, and vaccine hesitancy.

Countries that will vaccinate less than 60% of their populations by mid-2022 will see gross domestic product losses totaling $2.3 trillion between 2022 and 2025, with emerging countries bearing about two-thirds of those losses, the Economist researchers estimated. Sub-Saharan Africa will register the largest losses as a share of forecast GDP, at 3%, but Asia will lose the most in absolute terms, with cumulative projected losses of $1.7 trillion.

With little chance vaccine access will equalize, “vaccine inequity will have serious long-term consequences,” the report said. It predicted poorer countries will take longer to recover economically, in part because they will likely face more restrictions where vaccination rates are low.

The more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has been a game changer, the report said, dashing hopes that vaccines alone will be enough to control the virus. It said the delta variant has boosted the threshold rate needed to attain herd immunity to about 90% vaccinated, up from 60% to 70% previously, but that such a high immunization rate “appears unachievable in developed countries (owing to vaccine hesitancy), let alone in developing ones (owing to vaccine inequity)."

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