By Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
Let’s start with a quick quiz question: What is the highest profit investment you can think of? Investing in the shares of a private company? Or depositing them in a funded institution?
No, because there is an investment that guarantees a much higher profit: a global campaign to vaccinate people in poor countries against coronavirus. So far, the United States and other G7 “leading” countries have shown no real leadership in fighting the pandemic on a global scale.
American vaccine nationalism has led us to stockpile both vaccines and raw materials for ourselves, causing unnecessary deaths abroad but also impairing our recovery.
“It’s a major moral failure of the G7,” said Esther Duflo, a Nobel Prize-winning economist in economics. “We are so focused on our problems that we can not look beyond,” she added.
Abhijit Banerjee, her husband, also a Nobel laureate in economics, says that because of the dangers posed by the variants being created in poor countries, this “is not just a big failure, but I think it will return to a boomerang ”.
Of course, this problem is not primarily about money. It is about the lives of people. For the future trajectory of humanity. But for those who weigh the costs to then orient their moral compass, a new study from the International Monetary Fund gives us some insights that underscore the importance of an urgent investment to vaccinate people around the world as soon as possible.
The IMF estimates that an urgent investment of just $ 50 billion, mostly from rich countries to vaccinate people in poor countries, would guarantee a profit of $ 9 trillion due to additional economic growth by 2025, always in the event of a pandemic is brought under control more quickly.
According to the experts I spoke to, this is a profit rate of about 267 percent per year for 4 years. Meanwhile, an Oxford University study found an average return on private equity of just 11 percent a year.
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, says investing in global vaccination would be “perhaps the highest return on public investment in modern history.” The goal is to vaccinate at least 40 percent of the global population by the end of this year, and at least 60 percent by the first half of 2022.
The IMF estimates that rich countries would do much better economically with a global vaccination campaign that would curb the pandemic faster, generating about $ 1 trillion extra from their tax revenues alone.
In short, this vaccine distribution initiative would pay for itself many times over, simply through additional tax revenue. At stake is the well-being of our species. For decades people have experienced tremendous progress in the fight against extreme poverty, illiteracy, disease, blindness and hunger.
But because of the coronavirus, we went back to some parameters. When the virus destroys a low-income country, young girls drop out of school and get married when they are minors. Vitamin A supplementation can be avoided, causing micronutrient deficiencies, which can cause more blindness and death.
Children do not eat properly, so their food feeds more parasites than their body and brain, making them anemic and malnourished. Women cannot get proper contraception or health care during pregnancy, so some of them die or suffer injuries during childbirth.
This whole situation threatens to widen global inequality. “A small group of countries that produce and buy most of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world. The ongoing vaccine crisis is a scandalous inequality that is prolonging the pandemic indefinitely.
“More than 75 percent of all vaccines are distributed in just 10 countries,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization. Less than 1 percent of the population in countries like Zambia, Sudan and Tajikistan have received even one dose of the vaccine.
Of course, it is understandable that national leaders want to give priority to their citizens. But as vaccine stocks grow, we must aim to fight the coronavirus worldwide – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it is in our national interest.
The virus we ignore in Zambia could incubate a virus that will hit us very hard later. We also have the chance to use this initiative to rebuild the goodwill and soft power that was significantly weakened during the Trump presidency, and some of these countries can help us make significant progress at the next UN conference on change. of the climate to be held in November.
I am honestly a little skeptical of IMF data, as they involve assumptions that are often difficult to materialize, and vaccination in poor countries is a very difficult process. Covax, the international global vaccination effort, is working heroically in countries where the progress of the vaccination campaign is very slow.
South Sudan, for example, allowed about 59,000 doses of the vaccine to expire before it could be used. But even if the IMF benefit estimates are somewhat exaggerated and the real profit could only be $ 900 billion instead of $ 9 trillion, that figure still represents a tremendous return on investment, or 18 times more than the initial investment of 50 billion dollars.
The West does not have the luxury of not succeeding. This is a chance for President Joe Biden to rise to the heights of this global challenge, and to reaffirm the United States leadership in the G7 in a way that will benefit the whole world, but also protect even the American economy itself.
“We know how to end this pandemic. “It would be almost criminal not to give us the opportunity to carry out our mission,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. /abcnews.al