Consider a Debt-for-Vaccines Program

By William R. Rhodes and Cristina Valencia

If the program is successful in Latin America, it can be replicated in other developing regions, co-writes AS/COA Chairman Emeritus William R. Rhodes for Reuters Breakingviews.

Almost a year after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, infections continue to increase in much of the world and especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the consequences are already counted in economic, social and political terms. After a race to obtain approval for vaccines worldwide, the focus is on this region, where there is concern that the vaccine may not reach the entire population due to factors such as cost and logistics.

The World Bank predicts that the economies of the region will have accumulated losses of $1.2 trillion in 2020. This means that many countries will have to resort, in the short term, to recurring debt to finance the vaccination programs for their citizens. Pragmatic debt exchange models will be essential if the costs to the region’s governments are to be managed.

Currently, 58.7 million people over 65 years of age live in Latin America and the Caribbean. To vaccinate only this age group, providing two doses to each person, within the span of a full calendar year, the countries of the region would collectively need to vaccinate 321,376 people per day. As of March 1, Our World in Data reports that the countries of the region have collectively administered an average of 3.1 doses per 100 people. These efforts, however, are still concentrated in only a few countries in the region…

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