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In the News

Enlightened self-interest needed in the push to vaccinate the world

Geoff Riley

17th February 2021

Martin Wolf writes eloquently here in the Financial Times about the need for governments in advanced, high-income countries to drive co-operation to vaccinate the world.

There are so many economic concepts linked directly to the complex but immediate challenge of how best to roll out a global vaccination programme that ultimately will be our best and surest pathway out of the pandemic. These issues include:

  1. How to scale up testing and manufacturing to produce billions of doses in their vials
  2. Supply-shortages of key raw materials used in the manufacturing process
  3. The regulatory environment surrounding the testing and certification of new and modified vaccines
  4. Maintaining and growing international supply chains - a true test of globalisation
  5. Pricing vaccines and ensuring that the poorest countries in the world do not have to pay out of their already limited fiscal resources

Wolf writes of the need for people and the governments who represent them to adopt a clear policy of enlightened self-interest.

"The vaccine programme is a test of our capacity for self-interested co-operation, because the world cannot return to normal if the pandemic is not controlled everywhere."

In this sense, we can apply ideas from game theory. Vaccine nationalism is - in effect - a defective strategy which ultimately makes all of us poorer especially if it means that international travel remains blocked and global flows of foreign investment are held back.

Co-operative strategies to help vaccinate a planet require perhaps tens of billions of extra dollars of mainly government funding but this is tiny compared to the cumulative loss of global output in 2020-21 and conceivably beyond. Covax is one of the pillars of a system of international co-operation and I hope that the Biden Administration's more proactive, multi-lateral approach can accelerate the funding and dissemination of vaccinations across the developing and emerging country world.

None of us are protected until all of us are protected.

Tim Harford's podcast series "How to Vaccinate the World" is highly recommended.

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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