The possibility of an effective vaccine against the coronavirus reduces uncertainty over the duration of the health crisis. The economy can return to normality in a finite time. This would be a radical change because economic policy would regain its effectiveness since households and businesses would no longer have any reason to maintain wait-and-see behavior. Nevertheless, the crisis has brought to light and accelerated structural changes that will shape the economy of tomorrow. These breaks will create persistence, reducing the speed of adjustment of the economy.
A vaccine capable of being effective in 90% of cases would have been developed by the German subsidiary BioNTech of the American laboratory Pfizer. This vaccine is in a large-scale trial phase so that its use can be validated quickly, in the next few weeks, by health authorities in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. The aim is to obtain rapid certification so that the vaccine can be produced on a large scale. Europe is finalizing the purchase of 300 million doses and the Americans have purchased 100 million doses with an option for 500 million additional doses.
You need two doses per patient, so you have to divide the numbers by two to get the number of those who could be immune. Pfizer has indicated that it could manufacture 1.3 billion doses in 2021, the number needed to immunize 650 million people. The laboratory could manufacture 50 million in 2020.
The technique used for this vaccine is original and makes it possible to manufacture it very quickly on a very large scale . It is not necessary to “breed” viruses to be able to inoculate them afterwards as is generally the case with influenza, polio or measles.
In the case of the new vaccine, this would involve inoculating strands of genetic instructions to send a signal to the cells on what to manufacture in order to be able to contain the virus (so-called messenger RNA method
The principle is the same as in a classic vaccine for which it must train the immune system to recognize a virus (hence the advantage of inoculating viruses in vaccines), making it develop its preventive defenses in order to neutralize the true virus when it has infected the body.
The method here is the same except that it is not a virus, even attenuated, which is inoculated but strands of genetic instructions which will allow cells to develop preventive defenses.
It is then necessary to define the characteristic of the virus to seek so that the immune system locates it. In the case of Covid-19, it would be a specific spike in the form of the virus.
Three questions remain, at least:
The first is the duration of activation of these genetic mechanisms. Because the signal sent to the cells could have only a limited lifespan.
The second is the effectiveness according to the age of the patient. It would appear that the data is not yet available. We can possibly imagine different degrees of effectiveness according to age.
The third question is that if we can manufacture vaccines very quickly because of the technology developed, will its large-scale acceptance be spontaneous? It is not certain, the surveys carried out suggest a reluctance of the population. Depending on the country, and regardless of the technique used, the acceptance rate would range from 62% to 90% depending on the country. The very particular form of the vaccine, strands of genetic instructions, could increase reluctance and reduce acceptance of the remedy.
What impact on the economic crisis?
Having a vaccine means having the possibility of putting an end to the crisis in a finite time. So far, everyone has witnessed the development of this crisis by trying to stem its consequences. Containment, remote working, barrier gestures or the stop of air transport are all methods whose objective is to limit the spread of the virus pending either collective immunity, or exhaustion of the virus, or getting a vaccine. The different waves suggest that the very form of the health crisis is poorly understood. As a result, its duration can be long, much longer than anyone would like to imagine.
As long as the end of the crisis is poorly taken into account, for lack of precise information, economic behavior is constrained. The impact on the macroeconomics is then significant. This results in a savings behavior that goes beyond the norm on the part of households, this is what we observe, thus limiting the demand addressed to companies. These are reluctant to invest and renew their physical capital. Indeed, if the crisis lasts and demand is weak, what is the point of investing? An investment now if the crisis extends over time will lose its effectiveness.
There is therefore a risk of seeing the activity decline over time and limit its ability to rebound in the future.
The existence of a vaccine would make it possible to imagine that this crisis will end in a finite time. From this observation, everything could change. Economic policies know how to manage this type of situation by relaunching activity. Reassured households would reduce their savings and companies would invest. However, even with the existence of a vaccine, the economy is unlikely to reverse its past trends. In 8 months, sectors of activity have been weakened, some will never regain their pre-crisis appearance, other sectors have developed. These two contradictory situations will have to be combined. This reallocation of resources is in the management model of the current crisis and it is a source of its persistence since it is necessary to alter the production function of the economy. In the event of a vaccine, the process could be shorter and the responsiveness of the economy greater. That would still be good news.
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