Joan Costa-Font, 29 June 2021

Covid-19 vaccines exert large positive spillover effects beyond their protective effects for individuals, and thus their value far exceeds their costs. But these benefits are only realised if enough people receive both doses, so policymakers need to ensure appropriate incentives are in place to mitigate vaccine hesitancy. This column explores the potential of different incentives, arguing that creating a narrative of social esteem around being vaccinated may be the most effective way to ensure widespread uptake.

Romesh Vaitilingam, 22 May 2021

There is much debate about whether the patents on Covid-19 vaccines should be waived to allow low-income countries to produce doses for themselves. The IGM Forum at Chicago Booth invited its panels of leading European and US economists to express their views on this issue and the broader challenges of vaccinating the world. As this column reports, a strong majority (87% of the panellists) agrees that rather than waiving intellectual property protection, the rich countries should pay the pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and distribute the vaccines (or to license production and support licensees). A similarly strong majority (89%) considers that the benefits to the rich countries of paying for 12 billion doses and providing them to the rest of the world exceed the costs.

Anita Shet, Baldeep K. Dhaliwal, David Bloom, 08 January 2021

Despite the excitement and hopeful anticipation among the general public, the level of mistrust surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines is deeply concerning. This column argues that a ‘bottom-up’ approach to administering the vaccines – where the community is a resource and an active partner, not just a passive recipient of services – is critical for rebuilding trust and addressing inequities. It is also important to communicate that the vaccination effort is not just about saving lives, but also about improving livelihoods.

Jeroen Luyten, Roselinde Kessels, Sandy Tubeuf, 25 November 2020

With the news of promising Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon comes a new challenge. The initial supply will not be sufficient to vaccinate everyone and choices will need to made over distribution. This column presents the results of an experiment in Belgium investigating people’s preferences regarding the distribution of a scarce vaccine. There was no one single strategy that was considered best by a large majority, but three strategies were ranked first by between 20-30% of respondents: prioritising essential workers, the chronically ill, and older people. Libertarian-inspired approaches (such as highest willingness-to-pay or ‘first-come, first served’) and a strict egalitarian approach (such as a lottery) were clearly the least preferred options.

Miltos Makris, Flavio Toxvaerd, 24 November 2020

The prospect of an effective vaccine to Covid-19 in the near term makes it important to understand private and public incentives to suppress infection. This column examines how the prospect of a vaccine alters individuals’ incentives to self-protect between now and the arrival of the vaccine, and how a benevolent social planner would prefer individuals to self-protect. It finds that individuals tend to ramp up self-protection in anticipation of the vaccine, while the social planner manages the transition by introducing stricter suppression at early stages.

Pascal Lamy, 06 November 2020

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator – a collaboration between WHO, the French president, the European Commission, the Gates Foundation and other countries – was launched in April 2020 to accelerate the development and production of, and equitable access to, COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. In this column, Pascal Lamy argues that while efforts are underway to mobilise public and private grant contributions to fund the initiative, it is unlikely that they will raise the amounts required to deal with the most urgent needs. Innovative ways of financing, which are already available for other aid programmes, will also be needed to ensure that the populations of the world’s poorer countries are not deprived of access to vaccines within a few months.

Jérôme Adda, Christian Decker, Marco Ottaviani, 16 September 2020

There is much riding on the clinical trials currently in search of a COVID-19 vaccine. But for a vaccine to do more good than harm, researchers must remain free from conflicts of interest that could undermine their integrity. This column analyses trial results reported to the ClinicalTrials.gov registry. It finds reassuring evidence for the reliability of ongoing clinical research, but also identifies subtle patterns that regulators should monitor with care, paying particular attention to enforcing the transparency of trials sponsored by smaller companies.

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