DP15329 The Optimal Allocation of Covid-19 Vaccines

Author(s): Ana Babus, Sanmay Das, SangMok Lee
Publication Date: September 2020
Keyword(s): occupational health, optimal assignment
JEL(s): H4, I1
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15329

Covid-19 vaccine prioritization is key if the initial supply of the vaccine is limited. A consensus is emerging to first prioritize populations facing a high risk of severe illness in high-exposure occupations. The challenge is assigning priorities next among high-risk populations in low-exposure occupations and those that are young and healthy but work in high-exposure occupations. We estimate occupation-based infection risks and use age-based infection fatality rates in a model to assign priorities over populations with different occupations and ages. Among others, we find that 50-year-old food-processing workers and 60-year-old financial advisors are equally prioritized. Our model suggests a vaccine distribution that emphasizes age-based mortality risk more than occupation-based exposure risk. Designating some occupations as essential does not affect the optimal vaccine allocation unless a stay-at-home order is also in effect. Even with vaccines allocated optimally, 7.14% of the employed workforce is still expected to be infected with the virus until the vaccine becomes widely available, provided the vaccine is 50% effective, and assuming a supply of 60mil doses.