Vaccine inequity undermining global economic recovery
New Global Dashboard on COVID-19 Vaccine Equity finds low-income countries would add $38 billion to their GDP forecast for 2021 if they had the same vaccination rate as high-income countries. Global economic recovery at risk if vaccines are not equitably manufactured, scaled up and distributed.
COVID-19 vaccine inequity will have a lasting and profound impact on socio-economic recovery in low- and lower-middle income countries without urgent action to boost supply and assure equitable access for every country, including through dose sharing, according to new data released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Oxford.
An acceleration in scaling up manufacturing and sharing enough vaccine doses with low-income countries could have added $38 billion to their GDP forecast for 2021 if they had similar vaccination rates as 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 and a truly global economic recovery can take place.
A high price per COVID-19 vaccine dose relative to other vaccines and delivery costs – including for the health workforce surge – could put a huge strain on fragile health systems and undermine routine immunization and essential health services and could cause alarming spikes in measles, pneumonia and diarrhea. There is also a clear risk in terms of foregone opportunities for the expansion of other immunization services, for example the safe and effective rollout of HPV vaccines. Lower income countries need timely access to sustainably priced vaccines and timely financial support.
These insights come from the Global Dashboard for COVID-19 Vaccine Equity, a joint initiative from UNDP, WHO and the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, which combines the latest information on COVID-19 vaccination with the most recent socio-economic data to illustrate why accelerating vaccine equity is not only critical to saving lives but also to driving a faster and fairer recovery from the pandemic with benefits for all.
“In some low- and middle-income countries, less than 1 per cent of the population is vaccinated – this is contributing to a two-track recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “It’s time for swift, collective action – this new COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Dashboard will provide Governments, policymakers and international organisations with unique insights to accelerate the global delivery of vaccines and mitigate the devastating socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.”
According to the new Dashboard, which builds on data from multiple entities including the IMF, World Bank, UNICEF and Gavi, and analysis on per capita GDP growth rates from the World Economic Outlook, richer countries are projected to vaccinate quicker and recover economically quicker from COVID-19, while poorer countries haven’t even been able to vaccinate their health workers and most at-risk population and may not achieve pre-COVID-19 levels of growth until 2024. Meanwhile, Delta and other variants are driving some countries to reinstate strict public health social measures. This is further worsening the social, economic and health impact, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised people. Vaccine inequity threatens all countries and risks reversing hard won progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
“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.”
Designed to empower policy makers and development partners to take urgent action to reduce vaccine inequity, the Global Dashboard breaks down the impact of accessibility against a target for countries to vaccinate their at-risk populations first to reduce mortality and protect the health system and then move on to vaccinating larger shares of the population to reduce disease burden and re-open socio-economic activity.
The Dashboard is facilitated by the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All (SDG3 GAP), which aims to improve collaboration across the multilateral system to support an equitable and resilient recovery from the pandemic and drive progress towards the health-related SDGs.
Notes to editors
UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet.
The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States across six regions, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being.
For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitch
ABOUT THE BLAVATNIK SCHOOL, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD:
The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford exists to inspire and support better government and public policy around the world. Its Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, launched in early 2020, systematically tracks and compares policy measures that governments around the world have taken to tackle COVID-19. www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/covidtracker.
“Closing the vaccine gap is required to put this pandemic behind us. The dashboard can help scale up and accelerate global delivery of vaccines by providing accurate, up-to-date information on not just how many vaccines have been given, but also the policies and mechanisms through which we get them into arms,” said Dr. Thomas Hale, Associate Professor of Global Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.
The Dashboard will be updated in real-time as new data becomes available, filling a critical gap to help guide the international community’s understanding of what can be done to achieve vaccine equity. Users are able and encouraged to download all data sets in full from the website.
Australia’s stunning economic recovery trips on Delta, vaccine snags
View of a construction site for a train station on the Sydney Metro, Australia July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Sam Holmes
SYDNEY, July 22 (Reuters) - In Australia’s largest city, construction has come to a standstill for the first time in living memory as a surge in COVID-19 cases puts Sydney under its toughest lockdown since the pandemic began.
Tradespeople are out of work, with a knock-on effect seen on other sectors including retailers and cafes, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus darkens the outlook for Australia’s $1.5 trillion economy, one of the few to have successfully navigated the pandemic in 2020.
Now, some analysts see the economy shrinking this quarter, the first decline since June 2020, amid suggestions Sydney could remain in lockdown indefinitely. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg concurs, saying in a televised interview the September quarter will probably “be a negative.” read more
The sudden change in Australia’s fortunes brought on by the Delta variant comes as policymakers in other developed countries begin to have second thoughts about rapidly reopening their economies. read more
“I don’t think everybody appreciates how contagious this strain is and how different it is from past strains,” said Gladys Berejiklian, premier for New South Wales of which Sydney is the capital city.
Berejiklian, who controlled previous virus outbreaks without imposing widespread lockdowns, first locked up Sydney on June 26 and has since tightened restrictions banning construction activity, shutting down non-essential retail and urging employers to reinstate strict work-from-home policies.
The construction sector accounts for around 9% of Australia’s annual output, while retail makes up for more than 4%.
“Delta has beaten every single jurisdiction in the world,” Berejiklian said, calling the variant a “gamechanger” and flagging some level of restrictions could remain in place until the vaccination rate goes up.
Economists, who have been quick to downgrade estimates for Australia’s economic growth, warn a longer lockdown will have dire consequences as NSW accounts for a third of the nation’s output. read more
They also think the central bank could be forced to reverse a decision made earlier this month to begin tapering monetary stimulus from September. read more
“The developments are concerning because things have not moved in the desired direction on the COVID-19 front, particularly in NSW,” said Gareth Aird, head of Australia economics for Commonwealth Bank.
New South Wales reported 124 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, versus 110 a day earlier, a record for this year and the highest in 16 months despite weeks of lockdown. read more
“We cannot discount the scenario where the lockdown continues indefinitely until the proportion of the population vaccinated hits a level that policymakers deem acceptable to reopen the economy,” Aird added.
Hanging heavy on outlook is a botched-up vaccination rollout, with under 12% of the population fully inoculated, together with recurrent leakage of the virus into the community from quarantine hotels. read more
The grim outlook sharply contrasts with the success Australia boasted only months ago, as the economy rebounded quickly to above pre-COVID levels after its first recession in three decades. read more
Apart from early success in curbing the virus, massive government support had helped last year, though this time around, support payments are not as generous.
As a result, businesses and workers are growing increasingly frustrated with the on-again, off-again lockdowns.
National carrier Qantas (QAN.AX) this week warned its staff may be stood down without pay if lockdowns continued for extended periods.
Australia’s second-most populous state Victoria is in its fifth lockdown and smaller South Australia also ordered its residents this week to stay at home as cases of the Delta variant flare like wildfires.
Electronics giant JB Hi-Fi (JBH.AX) this week warned its sales have suffered through July. read more
ANZ’s High Frequency Indicator Index, which combines a variety of mobility data and restaurant bookings, is now in negative territory and at its lowest since October 2020.
For smaller firms such as Sydney-based Ianotti Electricals, the lengthy delays mean thousands of dollars of lost business.
“I’ve had to leave bathroom and kitchen renovations midway. There were new works we were supposed to start too, that’s not happening,” said David Ianotti, whose father owns the business. “I am doing some work like finishing up paperwork, cleaning my van etc but it’s all unpaid work.”
Australia is not battling the Delta variant alone.
A resurgence of cases globally has hit sentiment in world share markets and cast a shadow over rosy predictions for economic growth as more countries re-impose restrictions. read more
“The Delta variant could fuel worries about stagflation, which is a terrible combination of slowing economic growth and inflation at the same time,” said Nancy Davis, a portfolio manager at Quadratic Capital Management, which has $3.2 billion in assets.
“Stagflation is an even bigger risk for investors than inflation.”
Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Embedded As a Risk, New COVID Cycle Could Challenge Economic Recovery
Five weeks after dropping its reference to the coronavirus as a weight on the economy, the U.S. Federal Reserve is confronting a challenging new rise in cases that has fueled doubts about the global recovery and is already forcing other central banks to consider retooling their policies.
The daily pace of new infections has more than doubled since the Fed’s June 16 policy meeting, when Chair Jerome Powell said that while it was “premature to declare victory” given the appearance of the more infectious coronavirus Delta variant, a decline in infections, hospitalizations and deaths “should continue.”
It hasn’t, and while the worst current outbreaks have been localized, news of rising case loads once again straining hospital capacity spilled into financial markets with a sharp Monday sell-off.
U.S. Treasury yields have tumbled in a sign investors may be losing confidence in both the U.S. growth outlook and the Fed’s ability to navigate between the shoals of a resurgent pandemic that may require more help from the central bank and high inflation that may demand a more restrictive approach.
Analysts still expect economic growth in 2021 to be the strongest since 1984, but are now again mining real-time data for signs the Delta variant is changing behavior.
“Do vaccinated people stay off airplanes? That is the downside risk,” said Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Bank Chief Economist Jay Bryson, who is so far maintaining a forecast of 7% economic growth this year. “I don’t think any of us are expecting lockdowns like we saw a year ago. The population is not going to stand for that. But you don’t have to have lockdowns. You just have to have people saying, ‘I am staying home.'”
No obvious evidence has emerged yet of that happening. Air travel has remained steady at around 80% of its pre-pandemic level, according to Transportation Security Administration statistics, and there’s been no dip in diners returning to restaurants, according to data from restaurant site OpenTable.
Attendance at Major League Baseball games over the seven days through Monday had climbed back to the 2019 average for the first time this year, with stadiums now open to capacity crowds https://tinyurl.com/ymes2ax7.
Yet the Fed’s scheduled meeting next week will be newly complicated, overshadowed by something epidemiologists have warned even as vaccinations rolled out: Coronavirus will not fade easily, and is likely to remain a cyclical risk to people’s health and the economy for years to come.
The Fed in June signaled it had begun planning a shift to post-pandemic monetary policy, with the risk of rising inflation seen as paramount and some policymakers ready to reduce the Fed’s $120 billion in monthly bond purchases and accelerate eventual interest rate hikes.
The Reserve Bank of Australia may offer a note of caution. The bank began its own bond “taper,” only to see the country impose new lockdowns that economist feel will force the RBA to reverse course.
Meanwhile, the Delta variant “could tap the brakes” on the U.S. recovery, Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari told National Public Radio over the weekend, “which would be a really big setback for us.”
‘HEIGHTENED SENSE OF RISK’
The health policy response to the Delta variant spread has been modest. Los Angeles reinstated an indoor mask mandate. On Monday the American Academy of Pediatrics said schools should open in-person in the fall, but recommended universal masking for staff and children over 2 years old.
Infections and fatalities remain well below last winter’s trauma. New daily cases of around 37,000 are a fraction of the quarter of a million per day in January.
Daily deaths of around 200 are “tragic…but not out of proportion to other major health problems” such as auto accidents, said Dr. David Dowdy, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
With about 60% of U.S. adults fully vaccinated and a portion of the rest likely resistant from previous infection, “We should not be panicking,” he said.
Yet with many adults still susceptible, a national vaccine drive stalled, and children under 12 not yet approved for immunization, the last few weeks suggest the handoff to post-pandemic policy may remain bumpy.
Among the core assumptions behind current Fed thinking, for example, is that a full reopening of in-person schooling this fall will free parents to resume work – a process that could now falter and slow the hoped-for recovery of nearly 6.8 million missing jobs.
“There will certainly be parents who will push back against in-person attendance. Those same parents may be hesitant to return to offices,” wrote Northern Trust Chief Economist Carl Tannenbaum. “Even if formal restrictions are not reintroduced, a heightened sense of risk among populations will create complications for commerce.”
A Centers for Disease Control collection of major epidemiological models shows forecasts between now and early August of anywhere from a few thousand cases per day to a massive outbreak rivaling last winter.
Wells Fargo’s Bryson said he is watching the United Kingdom, with vaccination rates similar to the United States and a large surge in recent infections, for signs of what may be coming.
There remains a large pool of household savings to keep the bills paid, socked away during the pandemic from an array of federal programs. Businesses meanwhile have adapted to operate more safely around the virus, with touchless QR code menus now omnipresent at restaurants, and web-based ordering systems further reducing staff interactions with customers.
But the ebb and flow of the disease will still need to be managed, and by the fall most of the pandemic support programs set up to help in that process will have ended, including additional federal unemployment insurance payments and a moratorium on rental evictions.
“This is not going away. It is going to be endemic,” with possible implications for policy if, for example, the restaurant or other industries end up with cyclical coronavirus slowdowns and a new seasonal pattern to employment, said Tim Duy, chief U.S. economist with SGH Macro Advisors. “The public health goal now is to make it a non-event.”