Keeping the world in lockdown is not a long-term solution for Covid-19. It’s time to think ahead. The lockdown will gradually have to be lifted, creating new risks of infection. We cannot really be safe, we are told, until after a vaccine becomes available, usually estimated at 10 – 24 months away.
The Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine
Scientists in many countries are racing to be the first to prove a vaccine, with some saying they are nearing success. But if one succeeds, all of the 7.5 billion people on Earth cannot be vaccinated immediately. No single producer can supply everyone quickly enough, so which countries get sufficient quantities of the vaccine, in what priority, will depend on what each country offers the inventor.
Who Gets the New Vaccine First, at What Price?
The inventor may decide as a goodwill gesture to give away its vaccine to whoever can produce it. But the inventor may instead decide to patent the vaccine and license (permit) producers in several countries to produce it. In either case there would be serious issues around pricing and availability.
What is the fair price for a vaccine to save millions of lives and prevent further shutdowns of the global economy? And how many people can afford to pay for it at that price?
Since everyone can’t get the vaccine while production is ramping up, who should get it first? The countries which are the highest bidders? And within a country, how should the scarce vaccine be distributed — to front-line workers first? the elderly? those in the food supply chain? It is too early to answer these questions but not too early to think about them and plan ahead.