The Center for Policy Impact in Global Health (CPIGH) at the Duke Global Health Institute is conducting a study that uses game theory to inform how COVID-19 vaccines could be distributed globally for both maximum public health impact and equity.
Why the study is needed
Developing a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine alone will not be enough to end the pandemic. The vaccine must also be manufactured at huge scale, delivered globally at a price affordable to all governments, and allocated in a way that maximizes public health impact and achieves equity. Unfortunately, these goals are under threat because rich nations have entered into bilateral purchase agreements with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, potentially hoarding the global supply.
COVAX, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX)—led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the WHO—attempts to overcome this kind of vaccine nationalism. While it is clear that bilateral deals between rich nations and vaccine companies cannot be prevented, COVAX encourages these countries to also participate in COVAX to ‘guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.’ The Facility aims to vaccinate one billion people in low-income and lower middle-income countries by the end of 2021.
However, whether COVAX succeeds or fails depends in large part on how many and which wealthier nations agree to participate in the mechanism, and on whether bilateral deals end up crowding out global vaccine supply. Our study is using game theory to examine ways to incentivize wealthier countries to participate in COVAX, and to explore the role of COVAX-like mechanisms in tackling future pandemics.