Posted on: Sunday, October 3, 2021 – 12:00 PM | Last update: Sunday October 3, 2021 – 12:00 PM
Some countries are seeking to give their citizens enhanced doses against the emerging corona virus, while many other countries are still far from achieving the goal of reaching basic doses, which reflects a stark disparity in the availability of vaccines between countries that are able to do so, and others that have nothing of their own. .
The purpose of the booster doses is to boost immunity as the effect of the primary vaccine begins to weaken over time.
Scott Duke Comminers, associate professor of economics at Harvard Business School, said in a report published by the “Bloomberg” news agency, that at a time when America and other developed countries began distributing booster doses of vaccines against the Corona virus, there are many countries concerned about This could slow the global vaccination campaign, thus prolonging the pandemic and causing more damage.
But Cominers explained that there is a way to deliver the booster doses and, at the same time, speed up the pace of the next stage of vaccination, in what he saw as the difference between “push and pull.”
He explained that at present, vaccines are mostly purchased through so-called “pull” contracts. Producers determine total production capacity, and countries simply buy or “pull” the resulting supply. This means that if richer countries, which tend to meet their contracts faster, start rolling out the boosters, other countries, most of them poor, will have to wait longer for their first doses.
In most markets, this type of winner-loser (zero-sum) equation is only a short-term problem. And if enough buyers want to “pull” at once, there is a strong incentive to expand capacity in order to provide new supplies. But a key part of the economic equation is missing for vaccines. Rising demand is not driving prices enough to make investment in new capacity worthwhile for producers.
Comminers says that the prices of contracts for Covid-19 vaccines are often much lower than market prices, and with good reason. Price increases would exacerbate already widespread inequality in access to vaccines, most of which are based on income. Besides, the sooner we make vaccines available to everyone, the sooner we stop the development of new mutated strains and hopefully bring a sustainable end to the pandemic. This is the definition of the public good.
This means that we need to think about vaccine production and procurement differently from other commodities. Instead of purchasing vaccines through “pull” contracts, we should use so-called “push” contracts, i.e. orders that represent explicit commitments to purchase additional doses of the vaccine and install additional production capacity to manufacture some or all of those doses.
Cominers believes that this strategy will not solve the problem overnight, especially since orders for early booster doses limit current supply. “But if capacity is expanded enough through the contractual shift that I’m proposing, then total production should be able to increase enough for other countries to catch up and eventually even outpace the current vaccination pace,” he adds.
To be sure, expanding production capacity will require more than just contractual reform. The United States and other countries still have to do what they can to counter the effect of the booster doses on global vaccine supplies in the meantime. Medical ethicists Govind Persad, William Fisk Parker and Ezekiel Emmanuel recently proposed a series of strategies for this purpose, including giving boosters in smaller doses, and “mixing and matching” between vaccines to maximize antibody production.
All layers of the supply chain will need support as well. Vaccines require a range of components and trace elements, for everything from bioreactor bags to marine “horsehoe” crab blood, which is used in vaccine development. And vaccine production on our current, unexpected scale has put pressure on those elements.
So far, more than 6 billion doses of vaccine have been administered, an astonishing feat, in less than a year. Yet that is not enough to stop an epidemic that threatens to decimate countries at the bottom end of the vaccine availability line and release more harmful strains. To fully treat the pandemic, we must change the way we think about purchasing the vaccines that help us beat it.