Economics of Vaccine
December 31, 2020
Since the beginning of 2020, in a world, struggling with a terrible pandemic, where no cure for the same is in sight, Corona vaccine is believed to be the only permanent solution . It is worth noting that an effective vaccine helps in the development of anti-bodies in the body to fight the disease, so that humans could be saved from the same.
This has remained a challenge for epidemiological medicine, as this type of pandemic was neither seen nor heard before. Similarly, the development of vaccines is also very challenging for this disease, whose infection spreads rapidly. More than 200 efforts to develop a vaccine are going on in the world and out of those about 8 attempts are going on in India as well.
A large number of vaccines are now being brought for approval in various countries. Meanwhile, the UK has allowed emergency use of the vaccine of the Pfizer Company, followed by US and other countries who have also given emergency approval of vaccines manufactured by host of other companies. Serum Institute, a manufacturer of the vaccine in India, developed by Oxford University, has also sought approval for its emergency use. Also, approval has been sought for emergency use of the vaccine manufactured by the Indian company Bharat Biotech. Although the government has asked for more data from these companies before allowing for the emergency use of the vaccine, it can be said that the date of use of the vaccine is now looking closer. On the one hand, it has given a ray of hope in getting rid of this pandemic among the people, however, at the same time, many questions are also being raised, which are needed to be answered.
The first question in this regard is about the price of this vaccine. With a population of 135 crores, providing this vaccine to its entire population is a big challenge. It is to be noted that if the cost of giving vaccine to one person is Rs 1000, then the cost of giving vaccine to the entire population will be Rs 1 lakh 35 thousand crore. At the same time, if the price of the vaccine increases by Rs 100, this cost will increase by Rs 13,500 crore. The important thing is that although reports about efficacy and side effects, are coming more prominently, there is still a lack of clarity about its cost. The cost of the vaccine for Pfizer is $ 37 per dose, which means that India will have to shed $ 22.8 billion, that is, 169000 crores to purchase 62 crore doses for 31 crore people only. Although Pfizer has said that in India they will keep its price low, it is not expected to match other competitors. Russian Sputnik V, on the other hand, costs nearly $10 and Bharat Biotech and Cadila vaccines are expected to cost between $ 3 and $ 6.
Although many efforts to develop the vaccine are going on all over the world, there is no match of India in terms of the potential of commercial vaccine production. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also said that the whole world is looking towards India for vaccine. Whether Sputnik V vaccine or Oxford vaccine, all are in contact with Indian companies for commercial production in India.
Once the vaccine is allowed to be used, the biggest challenge will be its distribution. Significantly, a temperature of -75 degrees will be required for the vaccine of the Pfizer. For this, specially designed refrigeration machines will be required. Other companies who have sought permission from the Government of India for emergency use for their vaccine will not need such a low temperature. There are also talks of seeking help from the Indian dairy sector in the context of 'cold chain' in the country.
Some people say that the private sector should be empowered to deliver the vaccine. But here we have to consider that if we hand it over to the private sector, their priority would be profit and therefore they will first give the vaccine to those who will pay more for it. In such a situation, poor people will be deprived of this vaccine. Therefore, it is important that it is distributed through the public sector health institutions of India and it is linked to the Aadhaar number. The advantage of this will be that important information about the relative efficacy and side effects of various vaccines will be available. It is believed that first vaccination will be given to doctors, other health workers, policemen and teachers. The number of such people will be around three crore. After that, the elderly and people with weak immunity due to hypertension, diabetes etc. would be needing this vaccine the most. If the work of vaccine distribution is given to the private sector, it would be difficult to get the vaccine to those needy sections.
In conclusion we can say that whereas there is a lobbying by the private sector to maximise profits, however, there are limits of the government budget. Efficacy and side effects of the vaccine itself is a major issue. With all these issues at hand distribution of the vaccine itself is also not going to be any cake-walk.