Discussion paper

DP15329 The Optimal Allocation of Covid-19 Vaccines

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.


Babus, A, S Das and S Lee (2020), ‘DP15329 The Optimal Allocation of Covid-19 Vaccines‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15329. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15329