OECD Economics Department Working Papers

Working papers from the Economics Department of the OECD that cover the full range of the Department’s work including the economic situation, policy analysis and projections; fiscal policy, public expenditure and taxation; and structural issues including ageing, growth and productivity, migration, environment, human capital, housing, trade and investment, labour markets, regulatory reform, competition, health, and other issues.

The views expressed in these papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the OECD or of the governments of its member countries.

English, French

The tortoise and the hare: The race between vaccine rollout and new COVID variants

New variants of the virus are spreading which, together with seasonal effects, are estimated to be able to raise effective reproduction numbers by up to 90%. Meanwhile, many countries are rolling out vaccination programmes, but at varying speeds. Hence the race is on to beat the variants with the vaccines. Vaccination is very powerful at reducing virus transmission: fully vaccinating 20% of the population is estimated to have the same effect as closing down public transport and all-but-essential workplaces; fully vaccinating 50% of the population would have a larger effect than simultaneously applying all forms of containment policies in their most extreme form (closure of workplaces, public transport and schools, restrictions on travel and gatherings and stay-at-home requirements). For a typical OECD country, relaxing existing containment policies would be expected to raise GDP by about 4-5%. Quick vaccination would thus help limit the extent to which containment policies need to be escalated in future epidemic waves, providing huge welfare benefits both in terms of fewer infections and stronger economic activity.


Keywords: weekly tracker, Sars-Cov-2, COVID, variant, vaccine, lockdown, reproduction number
JEL: E61: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics / Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook / Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination; I18: Health, Education, and Welfare / Health / Health: Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
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