COVID-19 who among workers to vaccinate first?

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Newswise – The COVID-19 epidemic and lockdowns enforced in many countries have placed high costs on the population: a combined health and socio-economic crisis that saw the global economy shrink 4.3 percent in 2020 and 130 million people will starve to death due to the global Economic crisis.

Strategic distribution plans for vaccines generally follow World Health Organization guidelines. In many European countries, the population has been prioritized according to several risk criteria related to age, work and health vulnerabilities. Guidelines typically do not provide priority criteria for the healthy, low-risk population under 60, who make up the vast majority of the labor force essential to the recovery of the economy.

A new study by researchers of the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca proposes a criterion for establishing an order of priority for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines at the most advanced stage of the vaccination campaign, when the elderly and vulnerable population has already been vaccinated. According to IMT School researchers, the driving principle should be that the following people who receive the vaccine should be key workers, beneficiaries of wage guarantee schemes, and workers at high risk of unemployment. This would facilitate return to work, the revitalization of the economy and, consequently, a more efficient allocation of public funds and a reduction in future job losses.

The analysis performed in the study was based on a data set that integrates data on human mobility, excessive deaths, vacation workers, weather conditions, and other economic variables. The causal effects of mobility restrictions and barriers were estimated using the weather conditions as an exogenous source of variation.

The study shows that with the restrictions imposed during lockdown, a 1 percent decrease in mobility translates into a 0.6 percent decrease in additional deaths in the following month. On the other hand, a decrease in human mobility by one percent corresponds to an increase in the wage guarantee fund (WGF) by 10 percent in the next month. This effect is more pronounced during the initial lockdown and gradually diminishes from June onwards as restrictions are relaxed. The analysis then suggests that priority should be given to vaccines primacy for key workers who are not entitled to remote work. This strategy would help to increase mobility and thus help the economy while reducing the higher excess mortality.

In addition, there is another aspect to be considered: From July 2021, the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation will enable European citizens to acquire a COVID-19 certificate, which should fundamentally facilitate freedom of movement in the EU member states. Some European countries are introducing the COVID-19 certificate not only for travel purposes but also as a requirement to enter indoor public spaces, attend events, gain access to restaurants and even, as in the case of Italy, to safely enter the workplace . With this in mind, Italy has already made the certificate compulsory for school and university staff and is now considering whether it will also become compulsory for other categories of public and private workers. As unvaccinated workers in more occupations and countries may soon be faced with similar restrictions, the need to consider people’s employment status and risk of unemployment when administering vaccine doses becomes even more important.

“The advantages and disadvantages of lockdown guidelines are discussed in the literature. In this study, we provide solid evidence of the benefits of the Italian lockdown in reducing excess mortality. We also document the collateral damage caused by lockdowns with regard to the risk of unemployment. We conclude that lockdowns should be avoided in the future by prioritizing the vaccination of key workers and those at higher risk of unemployment among the healthy and active population, “says Massimo Riccaboni, Professor of Economics at the IMT School and author of the article.

In view of the short availability of vaccines and their optimal distribution, the results of the study are particularly relevant for middle- and low-income countries, where the proportion of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is significantly lower than in high-income countries. with percentages between 1 and 30 percent. Future research by the authors will be dedicated to understanding how patterns of mobility may affect employment risk and vaccination campaigns in other countries and in different economic sectors.


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