Coronavirus vaccine: Aussies could pay to get jab earlier

Frontline workers and the elderly are likely to be first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine, but Aussies willing to pay may be able to jump the queue.

The Australian government could be rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine to citizens in just a few month’s time, but there might be a way people wanting the vaccine could bypass the government’s dsitribution plan.

The government has secured multiple deals with the best coronavirus vaccine candidates to ensure Australians can start receiving the jab as soon as possible.

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer claimed it’s vaccine candidate showed 95 per cent effectiveness and is preparing to request emergency use of the vaccine from US regulators.

As soon as a candidate is approved the Australian government will work to manufacture the vaccine and start rolling it out to Australians as quickly as possible.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus updates

Australians wanting to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner rather than later may have the option to pay for the jab.

Australians wanting to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner rather than later may have the option to pay for the jab.

RELATED: ‘Dangerous’ strain that triggered lockdown

Frontline workers and the elderly will likely be the first to get the vaccine under the government’s rollout plan, but there is another way other Aussies could get the jab sooner than expected.

Head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), John Skerritt, said there was “nothing stopping” manufacturers selling the vaccine to private companies.

“We live in a free market economy. There’s nothing stopping companies as long as they have the TGA approval to put that vaccine on the market in Australia,” he said.

This means Aussies that are willing to pay for the vaccine could get the jab a lot faster than if they waited for the free vaccine from the government.

While the idea of getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible might seem like a good one, some experts have warned there are some flaws with allowing these private sales.

University of Sydney Associate Professor Barbara Mintzes, Professor Emeritus of Health Policy and Management at York University Joel Lexchin, PhD Candidate and Pharmacist at the University of Sydney Kellia Chiu and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Sydney Zhicheng (Jeff) Wang, wrote a joint article explaining the issues associated with individuals being able to pay to get the vaccine early.

NED-2478 Pfizer Rollout - 0
NED-2478 Pfizer Rollout - 0

In the article published by The Conversation, Professor Mintzes and her associates said a private market allows wealth to be put ahead of need.

“Those most likely to buy the vaccine privately are those who have not been deemed at high enough risk to receive the vaccine for free until later on, but have the means to do so,” the group wrote.

“Prices are often higher in the private sector because public drug schemes benefit from their size and bargaining power to keep prices low, which could lead vaccine manufacturers to prioritise private sales.

“If companies set aside a portion of their limited supply for private sales, people who need the vaccine the most, such as health workers and older people, may have to wait longer.”

Several vaccines may come on to the market, and the group of experts say private sales could mean people won’t receive the candidate that would be most effective for them.

Private sales could also mean follow up on the vaccine’s long-term effectiveness and side effects may be poorer.

RELATED: Pfizer vaccine felt like a ‘severe hangover’

US pharmaceutical company Pfizer said it would soon apply to allow for emergency use of the vaccine. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP

US pharmaceutical company Pfizer said it would soon apply to allow for emergency use of the vaccine.

Professor Mintzes and her associates also pointed out keeping a private supply under the correct conditions could prove difficult.

“As an example, Pfizer’s mRNA-based vaccine must be stored at -80℃. Special cold chain management is not easy for any provider, but is likely better handled by larger-scale providers set up to deliver COVID vaccines,” the article reads.

“Further, all COVID-19 vaccines are likely to require at least two doses. Especially if supply is limited, it may become challenging to make sure private patients get their second dose.”

This comes as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said it “urgently” needed to “get a safe and effective vaccine to the world” and would apply for emergency authorisation within days.

Pfizer says its vaccine, called BNT162b2, was well-tolerated and that side effects were mostly mild to moderate, and cleared up quickly.

The company said the only severe adverse events experienced by volunteers were fatigue and headaches.

However, the World Health Organisation has warned vaccines should not been seen as a magic solution to the virus and many countries may have to “climb this mountain” without them.

“I think it’s at least four to six months before we have significant levels of vaccination going on anywhere,” WHO’s Emergencies Program Executive Director Michael Ryan said.

 

Previous Next