The insanity of leaving Africa unvaccinated

If there was ever a case where massive humanitarian aid was unambiguously the right move, it is here. Whether you are a socialist, capitalist, liberal, conservative, or just a plain old selfish cynic, vaccinating Africa is very obviously the right move. The relative pittance it would cost would pay for itself in a matter of weeks — and per the IMF analysis, create another $1 trillion in tax revenue in rich countries over the medium term. Heck, Jeff Bezos could finance it out of pocket by himself and still be the fourth-richest person in the world. Yet as historian Adam Tooze writes at The New York Times, “none of the members of the Group of 20 have stepped up, not Europe, not the United States, not even China. Billions of people will be forced to wait until 2023 to receive even their first shot.”…

I previously argued that the best way to solve the pandemic would be for the American government to build and operate a big vaccine factory producing the Moderna dose. Not only does the U.S. already own much of the intellectual property in that vaccine (thanks to it being developed in part by government scientists and with the help of government grants), mRNA technology is also actually much easier to scale up quickly than any other kind of vaccine. It would also be useful to have around just in case another pandemic strikes, which will happen sooner or later.

All that remains true today. If America had done that back in January, about now it would be starting to deliver several hundred million doses per month into the United Nations scheme for distribution around the world. With a little administrative assistance to help in exceptionally rough countries like the D.R.C., Africa could have been mostly vaccinated by the end of this winter.