Even as rising vaccinations have evidently begun to tame the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and other rich countries, the rest of the world is still afflicted with erratic and deadly surges of the coronavirus. Countries that do not have access to mass supplies of COVID-19 vaccines are evolving new variants of the virus that are more transmissible but that do not so far evade the protection of current versions of the vaccines. However, epidemics anywhere threaten immunization efforts everywhere. Billions of unvaccinated people is the perfect evolutionary environment in which to incubate even more dangerous variants that could restart the pandemic among those of us in America who are now protected by vaccines.
The Biden Administration has reportedly cut a deal to buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to donate to poor countries around the world. The goal is to distribute 200 million by the end of the year followed by 300 million in the first half of next year. This is on top of the 80 million doses the U.S. government has pledged to deliver to poor countries by the end of June. COVAX, the nonprofit international vaccine consortium, aims to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries before the end of this year.
A recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund calculates spending $50 billion on manufacturing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines across the world would generate $9 trillion in global economic returns by 2025. Viruses blindly treat human bodies as open access commons suitable for their reproductive plunder. Using widespread vaccination to enclose the human health commons before more dangerous COVID-19 variants evolve is a worthy endeavor.