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  • rmacculloch

Newsroom's attempt to refute John Key is off-the-mark

Today Newsroom is trying to make Sir John Key's claim - that NZ could've got our vaccines quicker had we paid more - look wrong. I'm on Sir John's side on this one. Newsroom reports that "[Sir John] said we could have paid for priority delivery of the vaccine - a claim the company [Pfizer] says is incorrect & baseless". The author quotes DownToEarth Kiwi which he believes was the original source of the figures that Sir John quoted.

It is an unarguable fact NZ ordered its Pfizer vaccines late. Why? Since our health authorities wanted to be sure of the relative effectiveness of the different brands. So they waited until March 2021 to order larger quantities, sufficient to cover our whole population. The PM & Chris Hipkins issued a Beehive Press release at the end of January, 2021, as summer holidays were drawing to a close, saying, “Medicines regulator Medsafe will seek advice & recommendations from the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee (MAAC) next Tuesday, about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine".

Yes, the oh-so-slow wheels of bureaucracy were only then starting to turn in Wellington in the midst of a crisis. Yet the BBC reported 2 months previously, on Dec 8, 2020: "First Person Receives Pfizer Jab in the UK". The degree to which our mainstream media are desperate to argue we didn't order late is highly revealing about its partisan bias.

Yes, over one year ago other countries were already signing massive advance purchase agreements. Why? The most basic one liner of a cost benefit analysis reveals that even when the relative effectiveness of the different vaccines was uncertain, as it was last year, orders from all of the major reputable companies should have been made in sufficient quantities to cover our whole population. That is a no-brainer. Since the cost of the vaccines, at $10 to $20 per person is insignificantly trivial compared to the cost of a lock-down.

Regardless of the actual per unit price paid to Pfizer, committing to purchase early is equivalent to paying more, since one is taking a bet on how effective their vaccine turned out to be. That was a bet the Kiwi government should have made. By not taking doing so at that time & delaying the purchase, the NZ government cost our country billions upon billions of dollars in terms of lost output & debt. Not to mention putting lives at risk. Sir John Key is right to make that point. Good on him for talking basic economic sense.



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