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World Economic Forum: The Private Sector and Equitable Vaccine Distribution

May 17, 2021

A feeling of hope has emerged in the United States as more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine. A slow swing toward normalcy has begun. But to turn that hopeful feeling into a long-term reality, the COVID-19 vaccine needs to reach everyone, everywhere. In a recent article, the World Economic Forum (WEF) argues that support for an equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine around the world “could not be clearer.” But to ensure rapid and fair vaccine distribution, greater private-public collaboration is required.

Why does global distribution matter?

To date, 83 percent of COVID-19 vaccine doses have gone to high-income or upper-middle-income countries, with just 17 percent distributed in low-to-middle-income countries. That’s a big problem for everyone. In addition to the human cost — over 3 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 — the economic costs will also be devastating if the vaccine is not equally distributed to all countries. In fact, the global economy could lose as much as $9.2 trillion if governments fail to distribute the vaccine globally according to a study by the International Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to WEF’s argument, public health experts from Tufts University recently stated that “Without global herd immunity, the pandemic can never truly come to an end.” Studies at Tufts predict that based on the current vaccine rollout, high-income countries could reach “herd immunity” (where most of the population is immune to the virus, limiting its spread) near the end of 2021. But low-income countries “will continue waiting until 2023,” and that “all global citizens will suffer for it.” Likewise, in a major study by economists at Koc University in Istanbul, Harvard University, and the University of Maryland assert that:

“Clearly, all economies are connected. No economy will be fully recovered unless the other economies are recovered.”
Selva Demiralp, economist at Koc University

How the Private Sector Can Help

The WEF says the private sector can help accelerate the vaccine roll-out through in-kind support and crucial funding support. In addition to this direct support, the private sector can “strategically use its funds to be catalytic and maximize the impact.”

According to the WEF, the private sector can achieve this by aggregating grant funding “through a pooled fund or matching commitments” so “funders can mobilize more and bigger donations from diverse co-funders.” Funders can also provide “concessional support to financially constrained private and public actors involved in the vaccine roll-out.” And finally, WEF says that “results-based finance can be an effective mechanism in improving accountability and outcomes per dollar spent on the vaccination support.”

At WBD, our private sector engagement team is committed to supporting our client, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in its work to advance U.S. national security and economic prosperity and to save lives and reduce poverty around the world. Through USAID, the US has contributed $2 billion to COVAX this year — with another $2 billion planned for next year. Gavi is co-leading COVAX, the initiative to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

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