As the pandemic spreads across the globe, the entire world eagerly awaits the discovery of a vaccine as the single antidote to the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19. Even once it is developed, the question of how to distribute the COVID vaccine remains to be one of the greatest global experiments facing this interconnected world. Many organizations are advocating for a fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine, while many of the wealthiest countries are already prepared to reserve a large number of doses. In order to investigate the effects of different approaches of the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the MOBS team was asked by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to compare two allocation strategies. In the Uncooperative allocation scenario, the first 2 billion doses of the vaccine are monopolized by the top 50 or so wealthiest countries, whereas the Cooperative allocation scenario assumes that the vaccine supplies are distributed to countries proportional to their population.
MOBS team researchers use a large-scale computational transmission model (GLEAM) to study the effects of different COVID-19 vaccine allocation strategies across countries of the world. Their models estimate that there would be twice as many Covid-19 related deaths if the wealthiest countries hoard the first 2 billion vaccine doses rather than distributing them equitably. Details on the methodology and model parameters are described in detail here. Assumptions about the number of available vaccine doses, the mechanism of vaccine efficacy, and the distribution capacity are best guesses based on expert assessment and priors mostly based on flu vaccine distribution.
The research has been featured in the following articles:
- CNBC | Bill Gates: ‘The next big question’ is how to distribute coronavirus vaccines to people in need
- Financial Times | Bill & Melinda Gates: Vaccine fairness will make us all safer
- National Geographic | Report: Distributing a COVID-19 vaccine equitably could avert hundreds of thousands of deaths
- News@Northeastern | If rich countries monopolize COVID-19 vaccines, it could cause twice as many deaths as distributing them equally
- Quartz | Bill Gates says rich countries need to ensure Covid-19 vaccines can be made globally
- The Verge | Bill and Melinda Gates say ‘shocking’ US pandemic response is due to ‘terrible leadership’
- USA Today | Coronavirus updates: NYC lockdown led to 70% drop in COVID spread; experts predict more deaths if rich countries hoard vaccine