Gaining a vaccine to help contain the novel coronavirus would provide a big boost to the global economy in 2021, but the initial geographic distribution of that benefit will likely depend on which vaccine candidate works first.
Public health officials around the world increasingly believe at least one of the vaccines now in the later stages of testing will become usable. They say it’s possible one or more will be available for a small number of vulnerable people by the end of this year, spreading out to more of the population over 2021. And economists are increasingly factoring that rollout into their forecasts.
A group of researchers affiliated with the Center for Global Development estimate that there is a 50% probability a vaccine safe and effective enough to be approved by a stringent regulator will be available by April 2021, with an 85% probability of that happening by the end of the year. However, manufacturing challenges mean it’s unlikely enough doses to cover the world’s population will be available before September 2023.
However, it is unlikely effective vaccines will become available everywhere at the same time. In the rush to develop a vaccine, several governments have helped fund research and development and signed up for early delivery of a specified number of doses. None have secured access to all of the front-runners, and the initial economic impact will depend on which one crosses the threshold first.
This means certain nations and regions are better positioned than others to gain initially from specific vaccines. Rich countries with the money to spend on agreements with a number of vaccine developers—while knowing some may fail—are set to receive a larger boost than most developing economies, which will likely gain access to successful vaccines later.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 170 vaccine candidates in development, with 26 being tested on humans. Eight of those are close to completing the final phase of testing, with some of those likely becoming usable in 2021.
According to Deutsche Bank analysts, the candidate with the widest potential distribution is under development at the U.K.’s Oxford University in cooperation with pharmaceuticals maker AstraZeneca PLC.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is the consensus front-runner, with most governments around the world having secured significant quantities,” the Deutsche Bank analysts wrote in a note to clients. “If it were successfully rolled out, its benefits would be distributed quite symmetrically across regions.”
Other vaccines would likely have a more geographically limited impact, at least initially. While the U.K. has signed agreements with the largest number of vaccine developers, it hasn’t done so with Moderna Inc. Should that company succeed, North America would likely get a head start. The same is true to a lesser extent of a vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. and…