We have taken a look at the vaccine roll out pace and find both positives and negatives. The herd immunity wishes look very doubtful for 2021, while the at-risk-group could be vaccinated by end of Q2 (and quicker than that in e.g. UK and Denmark).
One of the key questions for 2021 is when (or if) restrictions can be lifted on the back of a successful vaccine roll-out. Israel is running miles ahead of all competition but what about US, UK and EU? Unless major progress is seen to the current programs, then it is simply out of the question to discuss the herd immunity strategy for 2021. No one, probably expect for Israel, will get close to 80-90% of the population being vaccinated by year-end unless programmes are upped substantially in speed and supply. Denmark and UK are two examples of countries that will be able vaccinate all of the broad at-risk-group already during spring, while it is more debatable whether the US and the broad EU will have the broad at-risk-group vaccinated until some time after summer due to a weak roll-out pace.
Main take aways
- Even in optimistic roll-out scenarios, herd-immunity looks very unlikely during 2021
- UK and Denmark could have broad at-risk-groups vaccinated by April, while it may take an additional 2-3 months before US and EU have broad at-risk-groups cleared
What’s the status so far?
The UK and the US emergency-approved the Pfizer vaccine on the 8th and the 13th of December respectively, and both started the vaccinations on the immediate day after. The EU approved the vaccine on the 23rd with a simultaneous EU-wide roll-out on the 27th (albeit Hungary and Germany started on the 26th). The Moderna vaccine was also emergency-approved the 18th of December in the US, while the EU approved it just a couple of days ago. The UK emergency approved the Astra vaccine just before New Year, while the time-line is still unknown for the Astra vaccine in e.g. the European Union, so let’s turn our attention to something a little more tangible: that is, when can we expect risk-groups to be vaccinated?
We look at three scenarios. 1) An extrapolation of the current vaccine pace, 2) a scenario with increased supply but status-quo in the efficiency of the roll-out and 3) a scenario with increased supply and increased roll-out efficiency. EU and US are unlikely to vaccinate enough to reach herd immunity in 2021 in either of the three scenarios. Maybe focus will turn towards protecting the at-risk-groups on a yearly basis instead, at some point?
It is our opinion that economies will begin a wider reopening when the larger at-risk groups are vaccinated– thus every day counts. Now that we have a couple of weeks of vaccination data, we can begin estimating a rate of which the at-risk groups will be covered by vaccinations. Since there is currently no vaccination data on an aggregate EU basis we use the data from Germany as proxy for the EU as a whole. The below scenario extrapolates the current daily vaccination per capita pace, and it is fairly visible that Denmark is very efficient in using the doses received, while other countries are clearly less efficient in terms of utilizing all doses. If nothing changes (hopefully it does) it will take years before even the broad at-risk-group is vaccinated – so let’s look at scenarios with increased supply and increased efficiency of the roll-out.
Chart 1. If nothing changes, we’ll be in for a long ride
Quite obviously, the above figures are crude and not very realistic. In essence, this scenario is both suffering of an undersupply of vaccines and not accounting for increasing efficiency of administering the doses received. It does, however, tell us a story about the vaccine distribution preparedness of the regions. It shows that the current roll-out pace (given the current supply of vaccines) is largely unsatisfactory in broader Europe and in the US. Currently, the US has a utilization rate of their vaccines of around 29 %, meaning that for every 100 vaccines currently distributed in the US, only 29 has received a dose. The corresponding figures are 100% in Denmark and around 75% in the UK.
Currently, what the data shows is that the UK has done really well to administer the vaccines that they have been distributed as well as been early on the trigger regarding approval of vaccines. While there is no official communication of what UK has been receiving from Pfizer, it is said to be at 400,000 doses per week. This has amounted to 970,000 vaccinations during December. If the British vaccination infrastructure is capable of handling the increased vaccine supply from AstraZeneca (2m by mid-January), the UK will outpace both EU and the US, by far. We have included Denmark in the analysis due to the transparency in vaccination data and the impressive vaccination efficiency; just recently the health authorities announced that Denmark intends to hold a capacity to vaccinate 100,000 people a day indicating that the only bottleneck in Denmark is the supply of vaccinations.
By these estimations, the broad at-risk-group will be vaccinated by mid-to-late April in UK and Denmark whilst the lacking efficiency in administering the doses will lead to the EU and US having these groups vaccinated by Q3. The below scenario unfolds an increased supply (with peak supply reached during Q2). The EU will LAG UK and US in terms of reaching peak supply due to a weaker purchase policy, but a much better utilization rate in e.g. Denmark (and other efficient parts of the EU) may still lead to an outperformance of the US (Update: Note that the EU has increased the order of the Pfizer vaccine after this analysis was released)
Chart 2. Adding supply to the mix
It is (hopefully) a weak assumption that vaccination efficiency will be kept at this low rate across the EU and US. In this third scenario we have introduced a function that with time increases the efficiency of administering the doses received. This leads to a scenario in which the EU and the US will have vaccinated the at-risk groups by end of H1 and Denmark and the UK at somewhere between early and mid-April. It is still worth noting that even in this scenario with peak supply reached during Q2 and increasing efficiency in the roll-out, it looks unlikely that anyone (except for Israel) will be able to vaccinate enough people to reach herd immunity during the first three quarters of 2021. Denmark and UK holds a decent chance of doing it, but it is debatable whether it is possible at all in e.g. the US.
There are good reasons to hope that the vaccine roll-out will prove sufficient to protect the broad at-risk-group before a potential third wave in the autumn of 2021, but we sadly don’t hold high hopes of herd immunity being reached before the autumn wave, why the vaccine discussion could potentially turn towards protecting the at-risk-group on an annual basis going forward. The most efficient countries such as UK and Denmark could have at-risk-groups vaccinated already in April, which should
Chart 3. What if vaccination efficiency increases
The Latest Guides and Reviews in your Inbox!
Subscribe for our newsletter!
Join our +10.000 subscribers for exclusive access to mounthly newsletter.