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If Poor Countries Go Unvaccinated, a Study Says, Rich Ones Will Pay

  • January 25, 2021

A team of economists affiliated with Koc University, Harvard University and the University of Maryland examined trade data across 35 industries in 65 countries, producing an extensive exploration of the economic impacts of unequal vaccine distribution.

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Answers to Your Vaccine Questions

While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.

Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.

Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it while they’re not experiencing any cough or other symptoms. Researchers will be intensely studying this question as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will need to think of themselves as possible spreaders.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt short-lived discomfort, including aches and flu-like symptoms that typically last a day. It’s possible that people may need to plan to take a day off work or school after the second shot. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and mounting a potent response that will provide long-lasting immunity.

No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.

If people in developing countries remain out of work because of lockdowns required to choke off the spread of the virus, they will have less money to spend, reducing sales for exporters in North America, Europe and East Asia. Multinational companies in advanced nations will also struggle to secure required parts, components and commodities.

At the center of the story is the reality that most international trade involves not finished wares but parts that are shipped from one country to another to be folded into products. Of the $18 trillion worth of goods that were traded last year, so-called intermediate goods represented $11 trillion, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The study finds that the continued pandemic in poor countries is likely to be worst for industries that are especially dependent on suppliers around the world, among them automotive, textiles, construction and retail, where sales could decline more than 5 percent.

The findings add a complicating layer to the basic assumption that the pandemic will leave the world economy more unequal than ever. While this appears true, one striking form of inequality — access to vaccines — could pose universal problems.

In an extraordinary testament to the innovative capacities of the world’s most skilled scientists, some of the leading pharmaceutical companies produced lifesaving vaccines in a small fraction of the time thought possible. But the wealthiest countries in North America and Europe locked up orders for most of the supply — enough to vaccinate two and three times their populations — leaving poor countries scrambling to secure their share.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/business/coronavirus-vaccines-global-economy.html

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