Game Theory to Help the Vaccine Rollout, Abraham Accords, Telehealth: RAND Weekly Recap

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March 19, 2021

We discuss using game theory to make vaccine distribution more efficient; the potential economic benefits of the Abraham Accords; a Q&A on community health and well-being with RAND's Anita Chandra; why a U.S.-China reset is unlikely; disparities in telehealth use; and the latest on U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

People wait in line in a Disneyland parking lot to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site in Anaheim, California, January 13, 2021, photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Game Theory Can Help the Vaccine Rollout

The U.S. COVID-19 vaccination effort is in full swing, with more than 2.4 million shots being administered each day. But distributing vaccines has been challenging. States and local health systems have had to rely on improvisation and on-the-fly decisionmaking to create order from chaos—sometimes with mixed results.

So how can the United States achieve more efficient, faster vaccine distribution? The key may be the mathematics discipline known as game theory, says RAND's Luke Muggy. For example, applying game theory could help state authorities calculate how many vaccines need to be sent to each vaccination center. And as vaccination sites expand from health clinics and hospitals to stadiums and event centers, better management tools may be more important than ever.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in Washington, September 15, 2020, photo by Tom Brenner/Reuters

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former U.S. President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed sign the Abraham Accords in Washington, September 15, 2020

Photo by Tom Brenner/Reuters

The Abraham Accords Could Deliver Big Economic Benefits

By signing the Abraham Accords last year, four Muslim nations—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco—have taken an initial step to normalize ties with Israel. The agreement represents a political breakthrough. But a new RAND paper suggests that it could also move the region away from conflict and toward prosperity. The authors estimate that, assuming new relations evolve into deeper economic integration, Israel's four new partners could see the creation of 150,000 new jobs. This number could grow if more nations sign on.

Anita Chandra speaking at an event, photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Chandra speaking at a community resilience event at RAND's Santa Monica headquarters

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

RAND's Anita Chandra on Well-Being, Equity, and Social Change

As the vice president and director of RAND Social and Economic Well-Being, Anita Chandra and her team focus on some of today's toughest challenges, such as rebuilding after the pandemic, answering for centuries of racial injustice, and preparing for the effects of climate change. In a new Q&A, she discusses the role that RAND research can play in finding solutions. “We can offer innovative ways forward for policymakers,” she says, “and make sure they aren't…defining problems the same way they did in the 20th century.”

The guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) transit the South China Sea, February 9, 2021, photo by MC3 Cheyenne Geletka/U.S. Navy

Two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Sterett and the USS John S. McCain, move through the South China Sea, February 9, 2021

Photo by MC3 Cheyenne Geletka/U.S. Navy

Hopes for a U.S.-China 'Reset' Are Fading Fast

American and Chinese officials met in Alaska yesterday to discuss the tense state of U.S.-China relations. But resetting the relationship seems unthinkable at this point, says RAND's Derek Grossman. Beijing has refused to change its assertive behavior, and it appears that the Biden administration plans to take an exceptionally hard line against China. Going forward, the two powers are likely to only cooperate on “narrow and limited challenges of mutual concern,” he says.

Man talking on telemedicine with doctor, photo by AzmanJaka/Getty Images

Photo by AzmanJaka/Getty Images

Telehealth Use Isn't Spread Equally

After the pandemic hit, there was a 20-fold increase in the rate of telemedicine use. But this increase occurred mostly among more affluent people and those who live in metropolitan areas. That's according to a new RAND study. At the same time, office-based medical visits have declined by nearly 50 percent and were not fully offset by telehealth. This evidence reinforces concerns that the pandemic is worsening existing disparities in health care utilization.

Delegates attend talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

Delegates attend talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020

Photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

What's Next for the U.S. in Afghanistan?

Facing stalled peace talks and a May 1 deadline for withdrawing all remaining U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, the United States has thrown what RAND's James Dobbins calls a “Hail Mary” pass. The Biden administration has proposed prioritizing the formation of an interim Afghan government that brings in the Taliban as an equal partner. This seems unlikely to facilitate a troop withdrawal by the deadline, says Dobbins. But it may still be beneficial, because it could lead Kabul and the Taliban to at least begin discussing core issues.

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