The Biden administration is busy refining America’s global credentials. The US Treasury wants an international approach to corporate taxation. Meanwhile, climate change talks with other governments are in the forefront. But the administration’s diplomacy on vaccines has been slower than reality. Circumstances will force that to change in the second half of 2021.
For many Americans, getting an injection in the first place is still a priority. However, despite the massive increase in production of the COVID-19 vaccine, US factories will soon produce more doses than is needed to vaccinate the adult population. At a time of a global vaccine shortage, the White House will need to make important decisions that will determine whether it is seen as a decisive break with its inward-looking predecessor.
It can be said that the White House is moving towards a policy of sharing the surplus vaccines with foreign governments. In March, the Biden administration decided to “loan” 4 million doses of AstraZeneca to Canada and Mexico. White House Press Secretary Jane Psaki advertiser“Our first priority remains to vaccinate the population of the United States. The truth is that the pandemic knows no borders – but the truth is that the borders are unknown. Ensuring that our neighbors are able to contain the virus is a critical step for the mission – a critical mission to end the epidemic.”
Management went last week in addition to And he announced that up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca will be available in other countries. India, a potential ally in the geopolitical rivalry with China, is being cited as a potential beneficiary, at least given the increase in COVID-19 infections there. But how much of the surplus vaccine will the United States get and when?
Much depends on the decisions the United States makes about its vaccine rollout, the reserves it decides to build, and the policy toward its neighbors. Most recently, Matt Linley and I have worked through a series of Scenarios Based on the following recent developments. First, some vaccines have reported high levels of effectiveness among children, raising the question whether the vaccination will extend to Americans 5 years of age or older. Second, concerns have been expressed about future variables and the need to build up a US vaccine reserve. Third, vaccination rates in Canada and Mexico lag behind those in the United States.
We identified four scenarios, each reflecting different potential U.S. targets:
- Vaccination of the adult population in the United States.
- Vaccinate US residents 5 years of age or older.
- Establishing vaccine reserves (three options are presented, each at a different scale).
- Vaccinate residents of Canada and Mexico as well.
Each target requires the production of a certain amount of vaccine doses (see Column 3). Using detailed data on production schedules for each vaccine production facility in the United States, we report when the required level of production was met (see Column 4) and the dates when any surplus created thereafter reached 100 million, 500 million and 1 billion doses.
Production needed to vaccinate the adult population in the United States must be completed by June 20, 2021. After that, the excess of 500 million doses will accumulate by September 25. These dates go back to July 18 and October 18, respectively, if American babies are being vaccinated as well. Even with the latter approach, by the end of the year, the vaccine surplus in the United States is estimated to be more than 1 billion doses.
If the White House decides to vaccinate residents of Canada and Mexico as well as every American 5 years of age or older, the surplus will be available by September 16th. Obviously, as vaccine reserves increase in the United States, subsequent surpluses become available (see Scenarios 3a and 3b and 3c below). The date in which the United States can contribute to deploying the vaccine outside North America is materially affected by the chosen scenario.
Public health in the United States will be protected through the distribution of surplus vaccines. The variants appear where large parts of the foreign population remain vulnerable. Recent months have shown that even with restrictions on international trade, these variables are crossing borders and threatening lives. If done right, the United States could be at the forefront of global vaccine distribution from the third quarter of this year.
Optics in the United States will affect 0.5 to 1 billion excess doses of the vaccine later this year, the Biden administration envisioned. Given how sensitive the issue of a fair distribution of vaccines is, it is almost certain that the Biden administration’s foreign and international economic policy goals will be jeopardized if the issue is poorly handled.