Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Who should get vaccines first? Bill Gates says deaths would be halved if rich countries didn’t get first dibs.


By Lara Takenaga and Jonathan Wolfe

This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the global outbreak. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Over the past week, Kansas and Tennessee had a record number of virus deaths, while Missouri, Wisconsin and North Dakota had a record number of new cases.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and trackers for U.S. metro areas and vaccines in development.

Who should get vaccines first?

What would happen if coronavirus vaccines were distributed based on population, instead of going to the richest countries first?

According to research at Northeastern University, cited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in its new annual report, about half as many people around the world would ultimately die from Covid-19.

But Bill Gates told our colleague Donald McNeil Jr. that the optimum solution was not likely to happen any time soon — in part because the Trump administration refused to join the international consortium designed to make sure both rich and poor countries receive new coronavirus vaccines simultaneously.

Realistically, Gates said, “You’re not going to succeed in getting the U.S. to treat itself as just a random 5 percent of the world’s population.” American taxpayers, he noted, have paid two-thirds of the costs of the clinical trials and of manufacturing doses even as the trials continue.

Still, if just half of the vaccines backed by the Trump administration succeeded, the U.S. would end up with a surplus of doses that could be shared with other nations. And Gates holds out hope that by early next year, regardless of who wins the presidential election, the U.S. will come around to paying much of the estimated $4 billion needed to get vaccines to all of the world’s poor.

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