Even as the world plays catch up with coronavirus, several developed countries are considering booster shots for their citizens; and everyone’s favourite immunologist, Anthony Fauci, recently threw his weight behind the move.
During a White House Covid briefing, Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the US President, told the media, “I must say from my own experience as an immunologist, I would not at all be surprised that the adequate full regimen for vaccination will likely be three doses.”
How feasible is such a policy? More importantly, is it just? Vaccine inequality continues to be a major concern—per reports, where 60% of the population in higher income countries had received at least one dose, a dismal 1% have received the first shot in poorer countries. These numbers become even more prickly when we consider the 15.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine thrown away in the United States since March 2021.
Beyond being unjust, such vaccine inequality also comes at a steep economic cost to the world. A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit tries to calculate potential losses to countries who will fail to meet a minimum vaccination threshold. Their calculation shows that countries who will be unable to vaccinate at least 60% of their population by 2022 may face losses of $2.3 trillion in output between 2022 and 2025.
Asia alone will suffer losses of $1.7 trillion in output in the same time range. Africa, who is lagging behind in vaccination rates, stands to lose out on 3% of its output as compared to a higher vaccination rate scenario.
The science too is unconvincing. Of course, a booster shot will always be positive for an individual. A more pertinent question is—Is it needed? The World Health Organisation does not believe so, as do a slew of scientists, who continue to push for greater vaccine equality as the way forward.