Ns News Online Desk: In monopolizing the supply of vaccines against COVID-19, wealthy nations are threatening more than a humanitarian catastrophe: The resulting economic devastation will hit affluent countries nearly as hard as those in the developing world.
This is the crucial takeaway from an academic study to be released Monday. In the most extreme scenario — with wealthy nations fully vaccinated by the middle of this year, and poor countries largely shut out — the study concludes that the global economy would suffer losses exceeding $9 trillion, a sum greater than the annual output of Japan and Germany combined. Nearly half of those costs would be absorbed by wealthy countries like the United States, Canada and Britain.
In the scenario that researchers term most likely, in which developing countries vaccinate half their populations by the end of the year, the world economy would still absorb a blow of between $1.8 trillion and $3.8 trillion. More than half of the pain would be concentrated in wealthy countries.
Commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce, the study concludes that equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s economic interest, especially those that depend most on trade. It amounts to a rebuke to the popular notion that sharing vaccines with poor countries is merely a form of charity.At the center of the story is the reality that most international trade involves not finished wares but parts that are shipped from one country to another to be folded into products. Of the $18 trillion worth of goods that were traded last year, so-called intermediate goods represented $11 trillion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The study finds that the continued pandemic in poor countries is likely to be worst for industries that are especially dependent on suppliers around the world, among them automotive, textiles, construction and retail, where sales could decline more than 5%.
The findings add a complicating layer to the basic assumption that the pandemic will leave the world economy more unequal than ever. While this appears true, one striking form of inequality — access to vaccines — could pose universal problems. Many developing countries, from Bangladesh to Tanzania to Peru, will likely have to wait until 2024 before fully vaccinating their populations.
The initiative to supply poor countries with additional resources gained a boost as U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The Trump administration did not contribute to the cause. Biden’s chief medical officer for the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, promptly announced that the United States would join the campaign to share vaccines.