Medical altruism, would you pay a vaccine forward?

Why this might be the new normal for altruistic giving.

This is a question that popped into my head last night.

I was watching a very interesting documentary on Netflix. It was all about pandemics and vaccines.

Now while I thought the science of it all was very interesting. My partner didn’t and is still freaking out this morning.

One thing that did grab both our attention though was the issue with vaccines.

No not the cost of research, the availability of grants for development, or the time to market.

The thing that caught our attention was the cost on the open market and the knock-on effects.

Once the vaccine is developed. A pharmaceutical company buys a license to produce it.

So far so good and this is normal business practice for a product.

This is where the issues begin and its this problem which medical altruism may solve.

The high cost of vaccination

The global population in May 2020 was around 7.8 billion people.

This is where things get difficult for the vaccine’s. As a product sold by a business they have to pay for themselves and return a profit.

Something like the polio vaccine that’s been around for 60–70 years costs between $1 and $2 per dose. It’s given at childhood and so costs are quite low. In other words, it has already paid for itself.

That $2 is the cost of production, the storage, packaging, logistics, and profit margin. Not crazy.

There are 130 million children estimated to be born each year. If I was very positive and said each child gets vaccinated that’s a global cost to governments of $130 million.

Not much at all, in fact about 0.01% of global GDP.

A new vaccine though for a new coronavirus as an example. That’s a different story. Costs will range from $10 -$100 per dose based on some estimates.

Herd immunity needs 60% of the global population to be immunized. That’s 4.68 billion people.

The cost of that program would be somewhere between 47 and 470 billion dollars.

More than governments would spend on public health. This is also much, much more than the poorest countries can afford.

In a society where altruism is on the rise, it begs the question???

Should we embrace Medical Altruism?

We know altruism is a noble cause and it feels pretty good. We pay it forward at Starbucks. We sponsor charity events etc.

Why not sponsor vaccination?

If a vaccine costs $10 there is the case for paying it forward. Costs about the same as paying it forward at Starbucks or McDonalds for example.

The only difference is good it will do. Paying it forward no longer just makes someone’s day, it saves a life.

Of course, there needs to be a framework in place for that to work, it’s not like the drive-thru line.

That can be created though and there are already organizations such as the red cross or the MSF. They have that in place and do take the donations.

One of the only ways we can tackle this issue is by coming together and paying it forward. The sad reality is that government’s won’t cover the total cost and the vaccines won’t be developed and released without their being a profit attached to them.

Question is for $10 or $100 would you pay it forward if you could?

It’s a big question to consider. On one hand we expect government to pick up the bill. But where they can’t or won’t will we as society step up?


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