Richer countries have most available vaccine doses as the global recovery becomes K-shaped

vaccination
A woman receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the US, which is ahead of vaccination compared to other countries.

  • The wealthiest countries are vaccinating 25 times faster than the poorest countries, per Bloomberg.
  • Wealthier countries were snapping up doses in November, creating a vaccine shortage.
  • Poorer countries may not have enough vaccine supply until 2024, a Duke University analysis found.
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The vaccine race has intensified wealth inequality across the globe.

Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker found that the world’s wealthiest countries are vaccinating at 25 times the rate of the poorest countries. The database has thus far tracked more than 726 million doses administered in 154 countries.

So far, per the tracker, about 5% of the global population is able to get fully vaccinated. But the vaccines have been unevenly distributed, with 40% going to 27 wealthy countries that comprise 11% of the global population and 1.6% going to the countries comprising the poorest 11%.

Consider Pakistan. It has 2.7% of the world’s population, but has only received 0.1% of the vaccines. Meanwhile, the US, which accounts for 4.3% of the world’s population, has nearly a quarter of the world’s vaccines.

As of Thursday, the US has vaccinated nearly 20% of its population. It’s set to have enough vaccines for 75% of Americans by the end of June, per Bloomberg.

The pandemic has widened many wealth gaps

Patchy vaccine distribution is just the latest way the pandemic is exacerbating wealth inequality. In the US, the divide between the rich and the poor deepened as the economy’s recovery turned K-shaped, with higher-earning Americans recovering and lower-income Americans continuing to struggle.

From nabbing coronavirus tests when there was a shortage during the first stages of the pandemic to taking advantage of loopholes to get vaccinated early, the system has been working for the wealthy since the pandemic began.

The same dynamic has manifested on a global scale. While the global economy is expected to grow by 6% in 2021, according to IMF’s World Economic Outlook, that growth is projected to be uneven. Lower-income countries are expected to see an average annual loss of 5.7% per capita GDP from 2020 to 2024, but advanced economies will see a smaller loss of 2.3% in the same time frame.

“Recoveries are diverging dangerously across and within countries,” wrote Gita Gopinath, chief economist for the IMF.

Wealthier countries were snapping up “billions of doses” as early as November, reported The Washington Post’s Emily Rauhala, creating a supply shortage for poorer countries that could last until 2024.

She cited an analysis from researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center that suggested these priority-supply deals between countries and drug manufacturers were undermining the World Health Organization’s initiative to equitably distribute vaccines.

The Biden administration committed $4 billion in February to Covax, a global vaccine alliance dedicated to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution, to help bolster the worldwide vaccine effort. More than 190 countries are participating.

“It’s unconscionable,” Zain Rizvi, an expert on access to medicine at Public Citizen, told Rauhala in a follow-up story. “Many countries will be lucky if by the end of the year they are close to where the US is now.”

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Germany is about to unveil a plan to rebuild Beirut port – but it’ll only happen if Lebanon roots out corruption: report

Beirut port blast damage
A general view shows the damage at the site of the blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon August 5, 2020

  • Germany is poised to present a plan to rebuild Beirut port, sources have told Reuters.
  • Lebanon remains in political and economic crisis since the port was rocked by a massive explosion.
  • Any funding offered for the project would be contingent on the country forming a stable government, sources told Reuters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Germany plans to unveil a massive project to reconstruct the port of Beirut, but it would be conditional on Lebanon addressing rampant government corruption, sources have told Reuters.

The multi-billion-dollar reconstruction plan, which has not yet been financed, would be designed to attract cash from bodies such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), sources told the news agency on Thursday.

Beirut’s port suffered catastrophe in August last year, when 2,750 tons of improperly-stored ammonium nitrate exploded, killing at least 100 people. The massive explosion, whose effects could be felt miles away, devastated much of the city.

The explosive material had been impounded after being seized from an abandoned cargo ship in 2014, and remained in storage until it ignited in the horrifying event, as Insider reported.

The country, which was already in the midst of a financial crisis, was left reeling.

Beirut
A view of the partially destroyed Beirut neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael on August 5, 2020 in the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital.

Two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the plans, who Reuters did not name, said the German government will make a multi-billion dollar proposal to rebuild the port and its surrounding area on April 7.

A senior Lebanese official, also unnamed, confirmed to the outlet that Germany was preparing a proposal for the port.

The German foreign ministry did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, nor to one from Reuters.

Both Germany and France have been competing for the opportunity to become involved, Reuters said. In February, a German company was assigned to safely remove the hazardous materials that remain at the port, as Voice of America reported.

Germany’s offer, which would cost between $5-15 billion, does not have financing yet – and to get it, the country must form a government capable of fending off financial collapse, the sources told Reuters.

There would be “strings attached,” one source said.

“Germany and France want first to see a government in place committed to implementing reforms,” the source added. “There is no other way around it and this is good for Lebanon.”

An EIB spokesperson told Reuters no funding had been confirmed, adding the bank “stands ready” to help – as long as due diligence was followed.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, Lebanon’s entire government quit, as the BBC reported at the time. Its cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, but Prime Minister designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun have not been able to form a cabinet, Reuters reported.

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The IMF lifts its global growth forecast with vaccination and stimulus likely to be a shot in the arm

Kristalina Georgieva
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks at a press conference in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 4, 2020.

  • The IMF will lift its forecast for global economic growth in a report set for release next week.
  • Vaccination and new US stimulus were grounds for the upgrade, the IMF’s managing director said.
  • Still, developing economies are recovering far slower than advanced countries, she added.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The International Monetary Fund will lift its projections for global economic growth in the wake of encouraging vaccination trends and major new stimulus in the US, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday.

The IMF will roll out an upgraded set of forecasts for this year and for 2022 next week when it publishes its World Economic Outlook report, she said. The organization’s January estimates saw global output growing 5.5% in 2021 after a forecasted tumble of 3.5% the previous year. The months since have seen COVID-19 cases fall from their peaks, vaccine rollouts begin, and $1.9 trillion in new fiscal support from the Biden administration.

The developments all stand to boost global economic recoveries through the summer, Georgieva said in prepared remarks.

“This allows for an upward revision to our global forecast for this year and for 2022,” she said.

Without “extraordinary effort” from essential workers and scientists, the global recession seen through most of 2020 would have been “at least three times worse,” the managing director added.

The news isn’t all good. Georgieva highlighted that, despite the broadly improved outlook, the global recovery remains uneven and gaps between countries could widen in the coming months. The US and China are likely to reach pre-pandemic levels of gross domestic product by the end of the year, but “they are the exception, not the rule,” she said.

New virus strains in Europe and Latin America are fueling high uncertainty about the region’s prospects. Emerging and developing countries also endured a 20% drop in per-capita income, roughly twice that seen in advanced economies. The plunge leaves emerging countries with a much harder climb back to pre-crisis health.

“They already have more limited fiscal firepower to fight the crisis. And many are highly exposed to hard-hit sectors, such as tourism,” Georgieva said

One upgrade among many

The IMF joins a handful of other institutions turning more bullish toward the US and global rebounds. Fitch lifted its own forecast for global expansion on March 18 to 6.1% from 5.3%, similarly citing stimulus and progress toward reopening. The estimate implies the strongest year of global growth since at least 1980.

US growth will outperform slightly at 6.2%, Fitch said. That’s up from the previous estimate of 4.5%.

“It still looks reasonable to assume that the health crisis will ease by midyear, allowing social contact to start to recover. But immunization delays or problems remain the key risk,” the firm said.

Wall Street giants have also boosted their estimates in recent weeks. Morgan Stanley is among the most bullish, lifting its US growth estimate to 8.1% in 2021 from 7.6% in an early March note. The forecast also calls for US GDP to reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of the first quarter.

Bank of America raised its 2021 US growth estimate to 7% from 6.5% on Thursday, marking its fourth upgrade this year alone. The revision was entirely linked to Democrats’ new stimulus measure and the “exceptional consumer spending” seen among those receiving relief checks, the team led by Michelle Meyer wrote.

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