Research / BFI Working PaperJan 30, 2021

Preparing for a Pandemic: Accelerating Vaccine Availability

Amrita Ahuja, Susan Athey, Arthur Baker, Eric Budish, Juan Camilo Castillo, Rachel Glennerster, Scott Duke Kominers, Michael Kremer, Jean Lee, Canice Prendergast, Christopher M. Snyder, Alex Tabarrok, Brandon Joel Tan, Witold Wiecek

Vaccinating the world’s population quickly in a pandemic has enormous health and economic benefits. We analyze the problem faced by governments in determining the scale and structure of procurement for vaccines. We analyze alternative approaches to procurement, arguing that buyers should directly fund manufacturing capacity and shoulder most of the risk of failure, while maintaining some direct incentives for speed. We analyzed the optimal portfolio of vaccine investments for countries with different characteristics as well as the implications for international cooperation. Our analysis, considered in light of the experience of 2020, suggests lessons for future pandemics. 

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