Monday 14 June 2021

Turns out you can pay to get vaccines faster

Alex Tabarrok and coauthors have argued, convincingly, for substantial investment in vaccine manufacturing capacity by richer countries. 

Paying a lot up front to get vaccines faster doesn't have to be about shifting vaccines from one place to another. It can instead be about getting more resource to those companies to scale up production more quickly. And that matters because the lines can then just keep running, pumping out more vaccine more quickly for everybody. 

So, for rather some time, I've argued that New Zealand should have at least tried paying a lot more to boost capacity and to get vaccines here faster. Our border walls are expensive and less secure than they could be; getting everyone vaccinated faster reduces risk and would restore more normal travel arrangements more quickly. Getting that capacity in place matters a lot too. 

And I've often been told that that would be impossible because things don't work that way. 

Here's CTV news on how Canada got their vaccines faster by paying more.

Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine delivered last December, weeks earlier than planned.

The detail is contained in heavily redacted contracts released to the House of Commons health committee late Friday, but any specifics on what price was paid or how the delivery schedule was amended were deleted before the contract was published.

Canada reached a deal with Pfizer in July 2020 to buy at least 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it was developing with German-based BioNTech. The first contract was signed on Oct. 26.

Pfizer Canada CEO Cole Pinnow told The Canadian Press in February that Canada's negotiations were based on an expectation the first vaccines wouldn't be authorized for use until late January at the earliest, and deliveries were planned to start after that.

But within a month of the contract being signed, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, was signalling that her department was about two weeks away from giving the vaccine the green light.

That appears to have sent Canada racing back to Pfizer to see if its contract could be amended to get some doses delivered early. On Dec. 4, Canada and Pfizer signed an amendment allowing for that, but at a cost.

"Whereas (the) purchaser has requested, and Pfizer has agreed .... to amend the delivery schedule so that a certain number of contracted doses are delivered prior to Jan. 1, 2021 and in consideration thereof the parties have agreed to increase the price contracted doses which are delivered prior to Jan. 1, 2021," the contract says.

Every detail in the contract related to the price paid for dose was deleted before the documents were made public.

The contract with Pfizer stipulated nothing would be shipped until Health Canada had authorized the vaccine, which happened on Dec. 9. The first shipment of 30,000 doses was on a plane to Canada within days and the first Canadian was vaccinated on Dec. 14.

Ultimately, Pfizer shipped 255,450 doses before Jan. 1. It has since delivered more than 22.5 million shots, and its vaccine has become the main component of Canada's effort to get all 38 million residents immunized against COVID-19.

Canada expects to have the whole country fully vaccinated by the end of September. 

Update: No rush on vaccination though really. No Covid here, no chance the Delta variant will make it through the border defences...

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