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A Vaccine Won't Be A Magic Bullet For The Economy

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

Over and over we hear that a really serious economic recovery won’t start until we have a vaccine. But the reality on the ground has several pieces and parts. My number one choice is simple logistics. It appears at this moment that any one of several vaccines in various levels of trial is going to have to be given by injection no matter which one(s) prove effective. Millions of doses of the vaccine can be produced quickly by any major drug company – enough to vaccinate every man, woman, and child in the country. But to do that there have to be syringes. Vaccines are typically delivered to doctors and hospitals in small glass vials which are time-consuming to make and require a syringe to be drawn out and administered. There is a product test underway to develop an effective pre-filled plastic syringe. That has never been done before, but planning is underway to create manufacturing capability without any widespread testing to see if it works. Given all this, there has still got to be a vaccine first and the best estimates now are that it might be the end of the year at the earliest before there is. Assuming that every one of these pieces falls into place perfectly (and works), people still have to get to a doctor or a pharmacy or other site to get the shot. There is no way that that time frame can be compressed and meanwhile the virus spreads.


And then there is that wild card lurking in the background – the anti-vaxxer movement. Millions of people believe that the government is not entitled to tell them they have to be vaccinated and there are untold numbers of anti-vaxxers who won’t even vaccinate their children against measles which has proven to be about 97% effective in two doses and 93% in one. A poll in May by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that only about half of Americans said they would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine. One in five said they would refuse and 31 percent were uncertain. A poll in late June by researchers at the University of Miami found that 22 percent of white and Latino respondents and 42 percent of black respondents said they agreed with this statement: “The coronavirus is being used to force a dangerous and unnecessary vaccine on Americans. The trust issues are just tremendous in the black community.” said Edith Perry, a member of the Maryland Community Research Advisory Board, which seeks to ensure that the benefits of health research encompass black and Latino communities. Effective vaccines typically take a decade or more to be proven safe and effective and there is no time for that now. There is also widespread distrust of the F.D.A. Social media has given anti-vaxxers a much broader platform to spread their message, and there are some celebrities that are promoting the message as well.


All of this is pointing to one major conclusion – that the economy is going to be slower to recover, and even when it starts to pick up in earnest, people’s confidence could take longer to recover while in the meantime they see the virus still spreading. And if a successful vaccine (widely-tested but largely unproven) is not widely administrated the virus will continue to spread and sicken people – albeit at a slower rate which will have the effect of slowing any economic recovery. And don’t forget, under the absolute best of circumstances the economy already has to dig out of a very deep hole where millions of people don’t have jobs, with more potential layoffs in the offing (think airlines) – hence there will be less money to spend and more money being saved at an almost unprecedented rate against any future crises. Because of these facts, the future for a quick recovery for many small businesses (just hanging on now) may not be bright. So if a small business is surviving now, but just barely, either major changes may need to be made in their business model or some hard decisions may have to be faced.


This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug is a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at

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