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Biden’s Vaccine Challenge

Summary:
In confronting the COVID-19 crisis, US President Joe Biden will avoid many of his predecessor’s mistakes, not least by heeding the advice of scientific experts. But, unless Biden also enlists adequate management, operations, and logistics expertise, even his best-laid plans may go awry. MILAN – US President Joe Biden’s plan for ending the COVID-19 pandemic and hastening the economic recovery is well designed and comprehensive, with clear objectives and priorities. But implementing it will not be easy, not least because it depends on rapid vaccine deployment. Liberation Joe Raedle/Getty Images History at the Barricades

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In confronting the COVID-19 crisis, US President Joe Biden will avoid many of his predecessor’s mistakes, not least by heeding the advice of scientific experts. But, unless Biden also enlists adequate management, operations, and logistics expertise, even his best-laid plans may go awry.

MILAN – US President Joe Biden’s plan for ending the COVID-19 pandemic and hastening the economic recovery is well designed and comprehensive, with clear objectives and priorities. But implementing it will not be easy, not least because it depends on rapid vaccine deployment.

The damage the pandemic has wrought has been far-reaching. In October, Lawrence H. Summers and David M. Cutler estimated that its cumulative financial costs (including lost output and health reduction) in the United States exceed $16 trillion – about 90% of annual GDP. For a family of four, the estimated loss – including income and the costs of a shorter and less healthy life – amounts to nearly $200,000.

But these costs are not being borne equally. Those in the bottom 50% of the income and wealth distribution have suffered the most, exacerbating already-high economic inequality.

Moreover, the pandemic has produced a major shock to education, especially for the very young. It is not yet possible to know the long-term consequences of school closures and remote learning for young people’s cognitive and social development. But it is safe to assume that the longer the disruption continues, the more serious they are likely to be.

Fortunately, Biden’s plan recognizes all of this. It also recognizes that the only way to achieve a full economic recovery (and get students back in school) is to get COVID-19 under control – and fast.

Many of the sectors most vulnerable to plummeting demand during the COVID-19 crisis – including travel, tourism, hospitality,...

Michael Spence
Nobel Prize in economics, Economics professor at Stern School of Business NYU, author of The Next Convergence

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