This go-it-alone approach doesn’t just impede COVAX. It also risks perpetuating harm to public health and the global economy. According to recent modeling by Northeastern University, proportional distribution of vaccines could avert nearly twice as many deaths as a vaccine distribution limited to only high-income countries. Further modeling conducted by the Rand Corporation concluded that inequitable vaccine distribution could cost the global economy up to $1.2 trillion in GDP. Conversely, if low- and middle-income countries were granted equal access, according to Rand, the cost to the global economy would be considerably less.
“A collective response … doesn’t just make moral sense—it makes scientific sense,” a spokesperson for the vaccine alliance Gavi, which leads COVAX with the WHO, told me in an email. “If rich countries monopolize vaccines at the outset, it will take us a lot longer, and many more people will die, than if we distribute on a global, equitable basis.”