Editor’s Note: Sachiko Ozawa is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy and adjunct associate professor in Maternal and Child Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is a health economist and leading expert on the value of vaccines and quality-assured medicines. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.

Vaccines are being viewed as a magic bullet to solve the Covid-19 pandemic and cure the US economy.

Yet how the vaccines are deployed — and who gets them first — will critically impact the speed and extent of a potential US economic recovery. A prolonged versus a speedy recovery could be the difference in trillions of dollars of net losses in real GDP.

Below are five important vaccination considerations for federal, state, and local governments to maximize the economic recovery:

Prioritize vaccinating teachers

Vaccinating teachers as quickly as possible would have an enormous economic impact.

As the pandemic continues to keep many schools in virtual or hybrid modes, parents are struggling to balance their jobs and homeschooling. Many have suffered reduced household income or have contributed to the diminished productivity of the US economy. Parents are also stressed and in poorer health.

Consider that 40% of US households live with children under the age of 18, and an average US public school classroom has around 24 students. This means vaccinating one teacher enables about 24 sets of parents to work more. Getting teachers and supporting staff vaccinated and back to work would relieve parents and caregivers and allow them to focus on their jobs and be more productive.

Vaccinating teachers also improves our chances for long-term future economic productivity. Covid-19 has affected children’s health, education and well-being. Virtual classrooms simply cannot fill the gap in their socio-emotional and developmental needs, and many US children are falling behind in education. Making schools safe will ensure we have a healthy and viable workforce in the future.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises teachers be included in the second tier of vaccine recipients. But it is currently up to individual states to decide who receives the vaccine when. State governments should prioritize them.

Build trust in vaccines

For vaccines to bolster the economic recovery, people need to be willing to get them.

Based on clinical trials and data available so far on vaccines authorized in the United States, the benefits of vaccines appear to far outweigh their risks. Yet a quarter of the US public remains hesitant to receive them.

To convince more people to vaccinate, transparency is essential to build trust. As vaccines are rolled out to subpopulations not adequately studied in the vaccine trials, such as nursing home residents and seniors with underlying conditions, the CDC must track their safety and make sure the vaccines are not causing harm or adversely impacting existing medications. This data should be made publicly available in real time, including any potential adverse reactions that certain demographic groups or those with underlying conditions might experience. The CDC needs to coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration to assure the public of vaccine safety.

Working with minority group leaders is also vital to build trust in vaccines. African American and Hispanic groups were hit hardest by the pandemic, yet they are among the most hesitant to get the vaccine. My own research has found that one of the ways we can build trust in vaccination is by having community leaders collectively spread positive messages about vaccines. The US government should support targeted educational campaigns to encourage community leaders, religious organizations, schools, businesses and civic groups catering to minority groups to foster trust in the vaccines.

Utilize independent and chain pharmacies

The majority of Americans prefer to go to a local pharmacy instead of the doctor’s office for vaccinations. But not all pharmacies have been involved in vaccination efforts.

West Virginia, which initially opted out of the federal program that partnered with CVS and Walgreens to distribute vaccines, has administered vaccinations at more than double the national rate. Its success is attributed in large part to partnering with local pharmacies to help with the effort.

Historically, authorizing pharmacists to vaccinate has led to greater vaccination uptake and improved health outcomes. Involving more pharmacists in the vaccination effort will also allow doctors and nurses to focus on treating Covid-19 patients, which is important when they are stretched thin and feeling burned out.

To get independent pharmacies to enter and stay in the business of administering Covid-19 vaccines, the US government needs to support their involvement. This includes aiding the logistics of vaccine cold chain management and making it easy for pharmacists to bill and receive reimbursement for vaccination. US pharmacies often report reimbursement and insurance coverage to be a major barrier to vaccine administration. In the case of Covid-19, not all payers cover the costs of pharmacists’ time to administer injections or educate consumers, and policies and reimbursements are different across Medicare, Medicaid, uninsured and commercial health plans.

To allow pharmacists to spend more time vaccinating all populations, it is essential for the government to set vaccine administration reimbursement rates to be equal regardless of patients’ insurance status to prevent any cherrypicking of preferred populations and to compensate pharmacists.

Stay vigilant with masks

We need to keep using masks to expedite the US economic recovery.

Evidence on masks’ effectiveness has grown substantially. But vaccination does not provide instant immunity, and the duration of vaccine immunity is yet to be determined. It will take considerable time before enough people are vaccinated to safely stop wearing masks. Prolonged and consistent mask use can help prevent new infections in public settings as economic activities resume, and this will accelerate the US economic recovery.

Strengthen the global supply chain

Covid-19 vaccines present an unparalleled opportunity to strengthen immunization systems globally. It’s important to look beyond the United States and not leave the developing world behind. Many developing countries do not have systems to vaccinate adults, have limited cold chain capacity and are reporting surges in falsified or diverted vaccines. I’m one of the experts on fake medicines from 20 countries that have called for global coordinated production, strengthened distribution chains and post-market surveillance to assure the quality of Covid-19 vaccines globally. Just as the United States tapped various companies to produce ventilators, it should leverage corporate and academic know-how in engineering to build cold chain infrastructure worldwide, not only to accelerate the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines but also to prepare for the next pandemic.

When safe and efficacious vaccines become available to many, studies including my own have shown that they contribute to economies by preventing illness, averting disabilities, saving lives and allowing people to be economically productive. The longer the pandemic drags on, the more likely that certain structural changes to the economy will become permanent. The faster we can effectively roll out Covid-19 vaccines, the faster the economy will recover.