Black Markets in COVID-19 Vaccines Were Inevitable Once Government Got Involved

“In the U.S., a botched and politicized COVID-19 vaccine distribution process seems to be fueling a black market in vaccines.
Anyone with knowledge of their fellow humans could have seen this coming. Limited supplies and controlled distribution of a product in high demand incentivize people to jump the line, or to make money by offering to help others do so.

“There absolutely will be a black market,” New York University bioethicist Arthur Caplan commented at the beginning of December. “Anything that’s seen as lifesaving, life-preserving, and that’s in short supply creates black markets.””

“In the end, federal promises of 20 million vaccinations administered by the end of the year were off by a lot, with the actual number just over 2 million.”

“Cochrane believes governments should have got out of the way of companies that could have sold people what they need to deal with the pandemic, including vaccines. “The government could buy too,” he offers, but “allowing the vaccine to go to the highest bidders—and allowing people to get it at CVS or administer it themselves—would have rolled vaccines out much faster.””

Vaccines Don’t Save Lives. Vaccinations Save Lives.

“It’s great to have highly effective vaccines, but as the researchers observe, “How well a vaccine program ‘works’ will also depend on how quickly it can be manufactured, how efficiently it can be distributed to locations in greatest need, how persuasive health messaging can be in promoting public acceptance, and how consistently the public can adhere to the many complementary prevention strategies (e.g., masks, hand-washing, distancing) to limit the spread of the virus.”

Trump’s Operation Warp Speed could be a success. The problem is Trump.

“the biggest payoff for Operation Warp Speed could be the rapid deployment of a vaccine once one is approved. The upfront investment for drug companies to produce vaccine doses without knowing whether they will ever be used is the kind of thing the federal government is best positioned to do. Risk-averse pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t ordinarily spend hundreds of millions of dollars in that way otherwise.

“We want to make it worthwhile for these companies to do that under these conditions of uncertainty,” Sachs said.

Warp Speed has become in effect a military operation, with a STAT report on its organizational structure revealing that the military personnel working on the project actually outnumber the civilians. The military has flown equipment and raw materials around the world to manufacturing centers, and it will likely play a central role in vaccine distribution. Even Joe Biden has compared that process to a large-scale military operation.”

“Not only have Trump’s public comments and this lack of coordination hindered the project, but the administration’s singular focus on Warp Speed has arguably led to other parts of the US pandemic response being undermined.

As Bloomberg reported in late September, the Trump administration has redirected about $6 billion in federal funding meant for the National Strategic Stockpile to Operation Warp Speed, even though protective equipment shortages persist. And about $1 billion in CDC funding, which otherwise would have been sent to state and local health agencies, was also steered to the project, according to Bloomberg.”

How the feds missed their chance at a coronavirus vaccine

“The two scientists from the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development had developed the vaccine against another coronavirus, SARS — but that epidemic ended before their vaccine was ready. And once the crisis was over, most of their funding dried up.”

“That was a big missed opportunity. They and other scientists say SARS should have been seen as a coronavirus warning shot, not an isolated outbreak, and it should have triggered federal investments like the billions sunk into flu vaccines a decade or so earlier. They want the federal government to act rapidly now to declare a public health emergency, get a vaccine developed, have it approved by the FDA and ready to slow the Wuhan virus’ march across China and globe.

Based on past experience, though, the chances of all that falling into place fast enough to turn the tide aren’t great, many scientists say.”