Those worst affected by any ailment are usually the ones who go the furthest in order to defend themselves against it. Areas prone to flooding have the greatest flood defences and those in natural earthquake zones have structurally designed buildings. Sure, there are limiting factors to this axiom such as affordability and availability but it’s still a pretty accurate rule. So why then has the United States, the country with the highest number of infections across the whole globe, secured so few doses of the vaccine?
In the world of vaccination it’s all about big numbers. One dose per head is rarely sufficient in order to generate sufficient immunity within a population. Nations including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia therefore have ordered enough doses of approved and pending vaccines to inoculate their populations several times over. Canada alone has enough doses secured in its contracts to provide a dose to each of its citizens four times over – anti-vaxxer or not! The US acquiring programme on the other hand, ironically dubbed Operation Warp Speed, has only secured one third of this number of doses as a proportion of its population versus coverage leader, Canada. Despite not having approved a single vaccine in the United States, the potential shortfall could undermine the nation in achieving immunity to the virus and stunt the economic bounce back from the pandemic.
The US has secured 455 million doses, considerably more than its population. However, the vaccine is thought to require a boost to sustain immunisation similar to the pre-existing flu jab, meaning that the US should be closer to 1bn doses before it might be considered to have enough. Given the finite capacity of all Covid-19 vaccine production, the fact the US is several dozen the way down the global pecking order for doses means it may struggle to scale up its vaccination program in a timely fashion. Pfizer has just cut its 2020 delivery target in half due to manufacturing issues and this is a timely reminder that shocks to global supplies of any vaccine will be felt harder in lesser covered nations. The vaccination program is something that President-elect Biden has suggested he will work on with immediate effect upon taking office. If insufficient coverage of a vaccine undermines US economic performance there could be an adverse reaction in US assets.
Discussion and Analysis by Charles Porter