CORONA VACCINE: Who gets it first? Who pays?
Most countries are involved in research into developing a vaccine against corona virus infection (causing COVID-19). The vaccine is likely to be available soon (in a few months from now). However, there are many logistical challenges that need to be considered and planning done well in advance to avoid chaos, as and when the vaccine becomes available.
1. Huge need: An effective vaccine is the most important method of winning over covid pandemic, in the absence of medicines that can cure this infection. So, everyone would need this vaccine. Depending on its efficacy, single or two doses per person could be needed. For India, this translates to 135 crores units of vaccine (270 crores if two doses per person are needed).
2. Huge amount of money needed: If the vaccine is priced at Rs 1000/ per unit, the total cost would be Rs 1,35,000 crores (Rs 2,70,000 crores if two doses per person are needed).
3. Who gets the vaccine first? In the initial phases, there would be scarcity of vaccine, as from day 1, we can not have the crores of vaccine doses that are needed. However, everyone would want to get vaccinated as early as possible. This could lead to ugly situations, such as black-marketing of vaccines, exorbitant pricing of vaccine by private parties, rich and mighty getting access to vaccine earlier, etc. It could be even lead to law & order issues.Therefore, we need to ensure that the high risk groups have the access to vaccines first. These could include: 1. Frontline workers- doctors, nurses, police, sanitisation workers, etc. 2. People who are more at risk of getting covid or dying from it- elderly, those with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, lung diseases, etc.
4. Everyone must get the vaccine: It is important to ensure complete immunisation of everyone to halt the pandemic. This is because even if a single person is left, he can be source of infections recurring in future.
1. Government should get involved along with private companies involved in developing vaccines. Sale and distribution should not be left to individual vaccine makers.
2. Vaccine should be sold at “no profit/no loss” basis or with minimal profits. This is not the time to look at profits. I hope the vaccine makers understand this.
3. Government should ensure a fair pricing of the vaccine so that it can be afforded by all. For those who can not afford, government can ensure free vaccination.
4. A priority list should be made regarding who gets the vaccine first. Obviously being rich and famous, or being a VIP should not be the criteria to get the vaccine first.It is time government swings into action now, rather than leaving things to the last moment. We have seen the chaos caused due to leaving things until the last moment (whether it was related to PPE kits, isolation or ICU beds, number of ventilators available, or testing capabilities). We were found lacking in all of these areas in the initial period of pandemic. I hope this chaos can be prevented when it comes to Corona vaccine.
Effective and universal vaccination against corona virus infection can ensure that we return to normalcy sooner, leading to better health as well as economic prosperity.
Dr Sudhir Kumar MD DM
20th August 2020