PIIE Insider | Wed, Feb 3, 2021
by Monica de Bolle, Chad P. Bown, and Maurice Obstfeld
Having largely cornered global supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, countries in Europe are clashing with one another over hoarding their doses, while sending poor countries to the back of the line. Yet, rich, vaccine-manufacturing countries are deluding themselves if they think they can eradicate COVID-19 at home and speed their economic recoveries while the pandemic rages elsewhere, especially in developing economies. Epidemics anywhere threaten immunization efforts everywhere—not least because new viral variants are emerging around the globe.
Because a globally cooperative and better coordinated effort is needed, rich countries must stop their infighting and perhaps slow their own consumption of the currently limited stock of vaccines in order to deploy more to the world’s hotspots as soon as possible.
The signs that such cooperation is in the offing are not good, however. European countries are threatening to restrict vaccine exports, echoing last year’s restrictions on personal protective equipment and other medical supplies. Before leaving town, the Trump administration established its own “America first” export deterrence policy “to ensure Americans have priority access to free, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines.” But the increasing risk of viral mutations around the world brings uncertainty and blunts consumption, investment, and ultimately growth. Rich countries need to confront a health and economic crisis that is global in scope. They remain vulnerable until the coronavirus is defeated worldwide.