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As many countries kickstart their covid-19 vaccination efforts, there have been fears about ‘vaccine nationalism’ getting in the way of global supply chains. While India has been at the forefront of sending free-of-cost vaccine supplies to several countries, the EU has faced flak for export restrictions. Intellectual property rights have also come as a roadblock for poorer countries. But will this benefit anyone?

Unequal distribution of vaccines could slow down economic recovery even for advanced economies, a new study has found. The study, led by Cem Çakmaklı at Koc University, Turkey, attributes this to international trade interlinkages. For example, even if a country vaccinates its entire population, it will have to limit exports to countries that have not yet reached that stage. Crucial imports may also be hit due to health risks. This will hurt all parties involved.

The study looks at interlinkages in 35 sectors across 65 countries, of which 41 are advanced and emerging economies that have better access to vaccines. Using OECD trade data, the study calculates how much inequitable distribution of vaccines could cost the world in 2021.

Advanced and emerging economies that fully vaccinate their populations may have to bear costs ranging between $200 billion and $2.6 trillion based on how other countries tackle the crisis in case of poor access to vaccines. This could amount to 13-49% of total global losses, or 0.3-3.7% of the 2019 GDP levels of the advanced countries, the study shows.

These potential economic costs should encourage advanced economies to step forward to push the global coordination on production as well as distribution of the vaccines. A robust economic recovery can only be expected when all countries open up safely, the authors conclude.

Also read: The Economic Case For Global Vaccinations: An Epidemiological Model With International Production Networks

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