Vaccine nationalism and the dynamics and control of SARS-CoV-2

Science. 2021 Sep 24;373(6562):eabj7364. doi: 10.1126/science.abj7364. Epub 2021 Sep 24.


Vaccines provide powerful tools to mitigate the enormous public health and economic costs that the ongoing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic continues to exert globally, yet vaccine distribution remains unequal among countries. To examine the potential epidemiological and evolutionary impacts of “vaccine nationalism,” we extend previous models to include simple scenarios of stockpiling between two regions. In general, when vaccines are widely available and the immunity they confer is robust, sharing doses minimizes total cases across regions. A number of subtleties arise when the populations and transmission rates in each region differ, depending on evolutionary assumptions and vaccine availability. When the waning of natural immunity contributes most to evolutionary potential, sustained transmission in low-access regions results in an increased potential for antigenic evolution, which may result in the emergence of novel variants that affect epidemiological characteristics globally. Overall, our results stress the importance of rapid, equitable vaccine distribution for global control of the pandemic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / supply & distribution*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion
  • Models, Theoretical
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • Strategic Stockpile
  • Vaccination Coverage


  • COVID-19 Vaccines