Some countries urged to buy Covid-19 vaccines quickly, despite the risk

12 Nov 20

The potential benefits of speedy Covid-19 vaccine purchases outweigh the significant public investment required and the risk of failures, the Inter-American Development Bank has said.

 

Looking specifically at Latin America and the Caribbean, economists said ending the pandemic by accelerating vaccine access by three months would yield nearly $125bn for the region in economic benefits alone.

“The key message is clear: the benefits of accelerating vaccine access justify large government investments, even if that requires borrowing,” several of the paper’s authors wrote on the IADB website.

“Borrowing can be self-financing due to the large economic benefits of vaccination against the pandemic. Accelerating access to Covid-19 vaccines is a high-benefit, rapid-return investment to save lives and normalise economies.”

Developing countries, which form the majority of the Latin America and the Caribbean region, typically wait longer for vaccines than high-income markets.

By procuring vaccines at risk, firms will effectively be paid to build and use manufacturing capacity earlier in the process than they would otherwise, perhaps even while trials are in progress, and access to vaccines would be sped up.

The economists found that at a conservative estimate, investing in one candidate to vaccinate 20% of the region’s population would cost $2.6bn but provide $8.7bn in benefits.

A more ambitious approach of investing in three candidates to vaccinate 60% of the population would cost $19bn but save $35bn, they added.

“Even under conservative assumptions, countries from Latin America and the Caribbean should make substantial at-risk investments in vaccines,” the economists said.

“Governments need to consider that even small investments can be valuable, given the considerable economic benefits in the context of tight budgets.”

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