Vaccinating the World: The Problem with Drop-in-the-Bucket Thinking

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Sturm College of Law


Vaccines, Global health, Bioethics, COVID, Pfizer


The United States, after wasting over 15 million doses since March and with a stockpile of 150 million more in freezers, reportedly ordered 200 million more vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech for delivery starting in October. These orders may be motivated by the expectation of broad access to “booster” vaccines in the United States.

The World Health Organization and many ethicists have criticized the broad provision of boosters on the basis that they exacerbate global vaccine scarcity. But other influential commentators defend using hundreds of millions of doses as domestic boosters by claiming that “the approximately 100 million doses needed to boost high-risk Americans will barely make a dent in the several billion doses needed to vaccinate the world.”

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