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COST_OF_VACCINATION.md

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What would it cost to vaccinate everyone in the world against covid?

Published March 23, 2021

There is no way to know the exact number, because it is a unique logistical challenge that has no analog in human history, and it also highly depends on which specific vaccine is used, and how good of a deal the buyers get. A global inoculation campaign is likely to draw on a mix of several different vaccines, and the World Health Organization is currently gearing up for such an effort, after a long and difficult fundraising period.

That said, we can estimate a range based on what we do know. A global vaccination campaign would be able to leverage massive economies of scale to get the best price, as has already occurred in the United States and Europe. Previous bulk purchases of the vaccine have ranged from $2.19 per shot for the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine all the way up to $19.50 per shot for the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. We can use these two figures to create a best and worst case scenario.

Assuming everyone on earth got the cheapest vaccine, the cost would be $2.19 * 2 doses * 7.6 billion people = $33 billion. WHO estimates that the logistics of delivery, refrigeration, and outreach would cost another $3.70 per person for a two-dose vaccine, which the AstraZeneca vaccine is. That's another $28 billion in logistical costs, bringing the best case total to $61 billion.

The worst case scenario from a cost perspective would be $19.50 * 2 doses * 7.6 billion people = $296 billion. Adding in the logistical costs again, we get a worst case cost of $324 billion. Though arguably this is a preferable outcome regardless of cost, given the purported higher efficacy of the more expensive vaccine products.

The true number is certain to be somewhere in the middle, given that many doses of both high cost and low cost vaccines have already been delivered. So for the purposes of this website, we will use $200 billion as the assumed real cost of vaccinating everyone, because it is roughly in the middle of the best and worst case scenario. It could be slightly lower or higher, of course, but for further discussion of that issue please see numbers that are too close to each other to matter.