Global economic recovery dependent on COVID-19 vaccine equity says key global organizations

WOLRD – The global economic recovery is at risk if vaccines are not equitably manufactured, scaled up and distributed, this is according to new data released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Oxford.

Revealed in the findings on COVID-19 vaccine equity, low-income states would add to their Gross domestic product (GDP) an estimate of US$38B for the forecasted year 2021 if they had the same vaccination rate as that of high-income countries.

At a time when richer countries have paid trillions in stimulus to prop up flagging economies, now is the moment to ensure vaccine doses are shared quickly, all barriers to increasing vaccine manufacturing are removed and financing support is secured so vaccines are distributed equitably.

“Vaccine inequity is the world’s biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and recovering from COVID-19,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Economically, epidemiologically and morally, it is in all countries’ best interest to use the latest available data to make lifesaving vaccines available to all.”

Data from UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, shows that the average cost per COVID-19 vaccine dose ranges between US$ 2 – US$ 40.

The estimated distribution cost is US$ 3.70 per person vaccinated with two doses, after accounting for vaccine wastage.

This represents a significant financial burden for low-income countries, where the average annual per capita health expenditure amounts to US$ 41.

While vaccination programmes will increase healthcare costs across all countries, it is especially the case in low-income countries as they would need to increase their health expenditure by a staggering 57 percent to reach seventy percent of their population under the current pricing.

High-income countries are expected to increase theirs by only 0.8 percent to achieve the same vaccination rate.

While COVAX provides a global risk sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, if a greater coverage is required to ensure a stop to the spread of COVID-19, the financial burden on most vulnerable countries increases.

Bold action is urgently needed to help low- and middle-income countries address crippling debt which is sharply worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccine distribution costs are expected to significantly add to this burden.

New scenario analysis provided through the Dashboard suggests that achieving the 70% vaccination target in low- and lower middle-income countries will require US$ 49.17 billion, assuming a price of US$ 15.80 per dose. This amounts to 0.69 percent of their projected GDP in 2021.

The picture is even more challenging when analyzing only low-income countries. More than US$ 8 billion, or about half of their projected GDP growth in 2021, will be required to vaccinate 70 percent of their populations, versus only 0.4 percent of the projected growth for high-income countries.

Most vulnerable countries are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique and South Sudan where less than two out of 100 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, as of July 2021.

Globally, the current tally of doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered stand at 3,568,861,733 with low income countries struggling to attain a vaccination population above 20%.

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