COVID-19 vaccine delays could threaten economic recovery

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The global economy could struggle to recover from the coronavirus pandemic if officials take too long to dole out vaccines, the World Bank said Tuesday.

The international institution expects the world’s economy to expand by 4 percent in 2021 after contracting by 4.3 percent in 2020 as long as COVID-19 shots become widely distributed throughout the year.

But this year’s growth may be kept to a paltry 1.6 percent if the vaccine rollout is delayed and infections continue to climb, World Bank officials said.

“Activity in sectors sensitive to public interactions would be hardest hit, with any recovery in domestic and foreign tourism held off until the second half of 2022,” the bank said in its latest economic outlook report. “Some countries may be unable to provide further policy support, more businesses would fall into bankruptcy, and more workers would be at risk of long-term unemployment.”

The report notes that certain people’s reluctance to get vaccinated could hamper the rollout or leave some places vulnerable to more coronavirus outbreaks.

Moreover, many emerging market and developing economies could have trouble obtaining and distributing vaccines or get a less effective shot than expected, “especially in the face of supply bottlenecks and vaccine hoarding,” the World Bank said.

The bank’s warnings come as officials in the US and elsewhere worked to ramp up coronavirus vaccine distribution. American regulators have cleared COVID-19 shots from Pfizer and Moderna for emergency use.

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