blanchard16_PATRICK T. FALLONAFP via Getty Images_covid vaccine Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

The Post-Vaccine Risk Phase

Although the United States, Europe, and Britain will have vaccinated their populations by the end of the summer vacation season, it will be far too early to celebrate. As long as the virus is still circulating elsewhere, governments in advanced economies will have to keep preparing for the worst.

PARIS/WASHINGTON, DC – For all the drama over sluggish COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and export restrictions, there is little doubt that the vast majority of people in the United States and Europe will have been vaccinated by summer. Death tolls will differ according to each country’s policy record, but the public-health situation will have become largely the same for Americans, Europeans, and Britons.

But there is considerable uncertainty about how much of pre-pandemic social life will return, and how long it will last. Some constraints doubtless will remain in place. The recovery in travel, for example, will be slow and uneven, and there will probably be “travel bubbles” – a scenario already anticipated in Australia and New Zealand, where the virus has been nearly eliminated. The European Union, for its part, will likely accommodate the summer travel season by introducing quarantine-free border crossing for those with vaccine passports. But restrictions on long-distance travel will remain.

Disparities in the pace and scope of the resumption of social activities will most likely coincide with income gaps. While some emerging markets will have reached high vaccination rates (Chile, Morocco, and Turkey are already ahead of the EU), most of the developing world will not have contained the virus. Accordingly, border controls between the vaccinated rich world and the unvaccinated poor world will probably tighten, especially if new variants continue to emerge. The adverse fallout will be felt most directly by migrant workers, but there will be broader consequences, such as a contraction of long-distance tourism, which will severely undercut some economies.

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