Scramble for vaccines
After a year of uncertainty and gloom, there is some bit of good news — in theory. There are now multiple vaccines to tackle the novel coronavirus in the international market. Their results, from what we know for now, are promising if not perfect. For the first time in what has seemed like eons, there now seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
Now on to the bad news. That light, naturally, has started to prompt a mad rush towards the end of the tunnel. The pandemic has been cruel to all governments around the world and more than people’s welfare, it has seemingly turned into a matter of political survival for many. In their desperation to kick-start a return to normalcy, there now looms the threat of a free-for-all. And that is where mistakes are bound to happen.
Although the Pakistan government has initiated its own Covid-19 inoculation drive, starting with frontline health workers, it has yet to procure any vaccine in substantive volumes. In the meantime, some in the Pakistani elite, as they are wont to do, have shown they are willing to resort to their ‘time-tested’ tactic: throw money at a problem until it fixes itself.
It is in the light of these developments that the government’s decision to allow the private sector to import vaccines without any worry of price caps seems both understandable and ill-advised. The hope, it seems, is that the private sector will both augment national vaccine stock and divert those desperate to ‘cut the line’ towards a commercial solution. But we all know the warning about best laid plans.
It is equally, if not more likely that the move would lead to serious price gouging, rendering the original intention moot. At this stage, it is also likely that private sector involvement will complicate vaccine procurement for all nations. Ultimately, the world needs to listen to the World Health Organization on this for once. As it has warned, tackling the raging coronavirus pandemic must be global collaborative undertaking. In this crisis, we are only as strong as our weakest links. A mad scramble, in any case, threatens to delay recovery.