Hey, Rich Countries: Use Tithes and Game Theory

Ghana received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from COVAX yesterday, Feb. 24, 2021. Image: Nipah Dennis/AFP/Getty
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Ghana received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines from COVAX yesterday, Feb. 24, 2021. Image: Nipah Dennis/AFP/Getty

It’s time to fix the staggering global inequities in access to COVID-19 vaccines, writes Gavin Yamey in a Nature commentary

Reality Check: Wealthy countries have already bought up more than half of all global vaccine doses, though they account for just 16% of the world’s population, says the director of Duke University’s Center for Policy Impact in Global Health.

Yamey’s advice for rich countries: 

  • Stop the zero-sum game of buying up all available vaccines for your citizens, and apply a game theory approach. For example, negotiate deals with vaccine developers to share knowledge and technology to  boost production by other manufacturers.

  • Tithe the vaccine supply to poorer countries. For every 9 vaccines administered, donate 1 to the COVAX vaccine pool. 

The Good News: COVAX, Yamey said at a Duke Global Health Institute media briefing yesterday, is “on course to do spectacular things by end of year”—potentially distributing 2 billion doses and getting all health workers and high risk people vaccinated.
The first COVAX vaccines landed in Ghana, according to Gavi—part of a flurry of  promising developments on the vaccine front.

Vaccines: Good News, Bad News 

Another shot: The FDA announced that Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine protects well against severe COVID-19 and may reduce the spread of the virus by vaccinated people, The New York Times reports. The vaccine could be authorized as early as Saturday and distribution could begin soon after.
A large real-world trial in Israel, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine effective against symptomatic (~92% at 7 days post dose 2) and asymptomatic infections (~90%). However, the study didn’t test the vaccine’s efficacy on variants, which were rare in Israel when the study unfolded, MedPage Today notes.
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are on the case: Both have variant-fighting boosters of their vaccines in the works and ready to begin clinical trials.

They’ll be needed. In less happy news, variants are proving formidable foes: 

  • Finland finds new COVID-19 variant that may not show up in PCR test –CGTN

  • Researchers find worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City –CNN

  • New research shows California coronavirus variant is more transmissible – The Washington Post
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