Cabaero: Capacity to pay for vaccine

Nini Cabaero
·2 min read

TWO pharmaceutical companies announced this month that their coronavirus vaccines have been found to be 95 percent effective. They expect to get approval soon to start distribution.

Once approved for use by the public, the next question is on how to get vaccinated. The “how” there refers to how the vaccine will reach the public and at how much, because the discovery of the vaccine is only the first big step. There are other hurdles that will follow before you and your family can get protected from the Sars-CoV-2 that causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

It is important to pursue the message of the “People’s Vaccine” coalition of health and humanitarian organizations that there should be no monopolies on the vaccine and companies should ensure the vaccine is sold at affordable prices, taking into account any public funding that was provided them. The coalition includes Oxfam International, Amnesty International and a United Nations group.

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna Inc. have announced the effectiveness of their own Covid-19 vaccine candidates made of the same technology that uses snippets of the genetic code of the coronavirus to train the body to recognize if the real virus comes along, an Associated Press report said.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said they will soon formally ask United States regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine. They will also be submitting the vaccine with regulators in Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada. The same will be done by Pfizer’s competitor, Moderna Inc., that has developed its own vaccine candidate.

Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech chief and co-founder, had said the initial supplies will be scarce and rationed. As the supply grows, the companies have a responsibility to help ensure access for lower-income countries as well, Sahin said. Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

The “People’s Vaccine” coalition is worried that only a fraction of the global population will actually have access to the vaccine by end of 2021 and almost all of them will be in rich countries.

Filipinos will be far down the list of vaccine recipients if capacity to pay is the only consideration. Negotiations of government with other countries for a share of the supply are at best exploratory. That is why the allocation to countries should be based on need and not on ability to pay where we will end up the losers. Health workers and at-risk groups should be prioritized. Marginalized groups, the poor and those living in slum or crowded areas where distancing is not possible should also be listed among the recipients.

For the pharmaceutical companies, there should be pooling of resources and sharing of technology with the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool so the rest of the world will benefit from their discovery of the vaccine.