Health and Healthcare Systems

Equal access to COVID-19 vaccines could be worth billions

COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine healthcare distribution equality

Making sure everyone has equal access to COVID-19 vaccines could be worth more than $460 billion. Image: Unsplash/Markus Spiske

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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COVID-19

  • By averting economic disaster and helping to end the pandemic, 10 major economies could be $466 billion better off by 2025, new data finds.
  • This is 12 times the $38 billion estimated cost of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
  • The collaboration was launched in April by the World Health Organization and its partners to support the development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

Making sure everyone has equal access to COVID-19 vaccines could be worth more than $460 billion to 10 major economies by 2025, according to a new report.

Data shows that leaving low- and lower-middle-income countries without access to vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic will cause significant economic damage for all economies and put “decades of economic progress” at risk.

Commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and compiled by Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm, the data assesses the economic benefits to advanced economies of contributing to the work of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

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The ACT-Accelerator is a collaboration launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners to support the development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

Impact of accelerated development of new COVID-19 tools from Aprill 2020 through March 2021.
The ACT Accelerator hopes to speed up an end to the pandemic. Image: Urgent Priorities & Financing Requirements at 10 November 2020, ACT-Accelerator

Funding call

The 10 countries analyzed in the report – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States – have so far contributed $2.4 billion to the work of the ACT-Accelerator.

However, the programme still has a significant funding gap of $28.2 billion – with $4.3 billion needed urgently to fast-track critical areas of work.

“If that shortfall isn’t met, low- and low-middle income countries will have delayed access to these vital tools in 2021, which will result in a protracted pandemic, with severe economic consequences, not just for these countries by also for the wider global economy,” the WHO says.

Eurasia’s report finds that the economic benefits of a global equitable vaccine solution alone for the 10 countries included in the analysis would be at least $153 billion in 2020-21, rising to $466 billion by 2025.

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This is more than 12 times the $38 billion estimated total cost of the ACT-Accelerator, the WHO says. The figure was compiled using the expected negative effects of sustained coronavirus outbreaks in low- and lower-middle-income countries, based on the downside and baseline scenarios of the IMF’s October 2020 World Economic Outlook forecasts.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to commit to the work of the ACT-Accelerator, saying: “It is the global solution to ending the acute phase of the pandemic as quickly as possible by ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 tools.

“Contributing to the ACT-Accelerator is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing for all countries – socially, economically and politically.”

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Significant progress

The Accelerator’s progress in just seven months has been significant, the WHO says, and includes the evaluation of more than 50 diagnostic tests; the roll-out of life-saving Dexamethasone treatments; the advancement of research into antibody treatments and preparations for the delivery of COVID-19 tools in four of six world regions.

Advanced economy commitments to the ACT-Accelerator include just over $1 billion from the UK, $618 million from Germany, $290 million from Canada, $229 million from Japan and $147 million from France.

The vaccines pillar of the ACT-Accelerator is called COVAX and has the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of vaccines.

It aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every participating country.

Working with 189 countries, COVAX is supporting the development of nine vaccine candidates, eight of which are in clinical trials.

COVAX has secured hundreds of millions of doses of three promising candidates, including at least 200 million doses for low-income countries, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the WHO says.

Saving lives

Alexander Kazan, Managing Director for Global Strategy at Eurasia Group and one of the authors of the report said: “There is a clear humanitarian and ethical case for supporting the ACT-Accelerator and the COVAX facility, along with the obvious economic gains it would bring to developing countries; doing nothing risks reversing years if not decades of economic progress.

“But our analysis shows that the programme is likely to yield economic and other returns for major donor countries as well. The ACT-Accelerator is a unique opportunity to save lives, repair the global economy, and build diplomatic capital that will last a generation.”

Hassan Damluji, Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “The moral case for an equitable global solution to the COVID-19 crisis has always been clear, but with high-income countries reeling from a huge shock, their governments are increasingly focusing on investments that can help their own economies to rebound.

“This report adds to the body of evidence that shows that the ACT-Accelerator is precisely one of those investments. It is both the right thing to do, and an investment that will pay dividends by bringing the global economy back from the brink, benefiting all nations.”

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