• rmacculloch

Big Pharma, Prime Ministers, Option Theory & Stuff-ups

Yesterday, DownToEarth Kiwi got drawn into a political row stemming from former PM Sir John Key's opinion that NZ was oh-so-slow to order the Pfizer vaccine, which it was. Yes, our bureaucrats stuffed up, waiting until 8 March, 2021 to order 85% of our Pfizer supplies when the UK was already vaccinating with it in December 2020.

The heart of the mistake was revealed in Parliament on 31 August 2021 by PM Ardern who admitted, "I think it's easy to forget that, actually, last year, many countries were purchasing vaccines before they'd even completed clinical trials". Yes Prime Minister. And what were those countries doing? Rationally weighing up costs against benefits. They worked out that even if some vaccines turned out to be relatively ineffective, buying them up early at least secured the extremely valuable option of saving lives & billions of dollars in the event they did turn out to be effective. Yet NZ never purchased that option. Never paid the small up front premium. Now we're paying a dreadful cost.

As for Sir John, who may have based some of his views from this blog, Stuff News tried to do a take-down of him by running a story saying: "The company [Pfizer] itself has now weighed in, with a NZ spokesman telling Newsroom on Monday that “the notion of any national government paying a premium for priority dose delivery is incorrect and baseless”. Today, Stuff ran the cartoon below, which appears to mock "former King" Sir John, showing him as incredulous that there are "things that money can't buy", like vaccines.

So here's a comment. The World Bank report that only "1.1% of people living in low income countries have received even one dose of a vaccine", the reason being "even though the world will have created 11 billion total doses by the end of this year, almost 9.9 billion of those doses have already been promised to higher & upper middle-income countries". It turns out that in 2020 the US paid for enough vaccines for twice its population, the UK for 4 times its population, and Canada for 5 times its population. A World Bank spokesperson says poor countries may have to wait until 2022 or 2023. I wonder what the folks living in the shanty towns & slums of these places would think about the "stuffed-up" line that money & getting hold of vaccines fast are unrelated?