The novel coronavirus pandemic is still wreaking havoc across the globe. We know what we should be doing — social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding crowds, etc — but not everyone is on board with that and the virus continues to collect victims on an hourly basis. A vaccine could change that, but once it actually becomes available, how much is it going to cost us?
If you’re a resident of Japan, the answer might be “nothing.” As The Japan Times reports, the country’s government is considering a plan by which the entire nation would have free access to a vaccine once one is proven to be safe and effective.
Rolling out vaccinations to an entire country is a tall order, so individuals would be prioritized based on how likely they are to contract the illness, For example, front-line medical workers would be first on the list, along with the elderly and others who have health conditions that may make them more susceptible to serious consequences from COVID-19.
Of course, it’s still fairly early to be talking about paying for vaccines when we still haven’t seen any vaccine candidate reach a point where it could be mass-produced. There are many groups around the world working on their own versions of the vaccine and while the race may result in one or more companies being heralded as heroes, all that work has to be paid for at some point.
A viral outbreak of this magnitude has never been seen in modern times, so we’re in frightening new territory. The most obvious thing for world governments to do would be to fund the vaccination programs themselves in order to keep their populations healthy. The costs of not doing so would likely far outweigh the financial burden of paying for the vaccines in the first place.
It’s a very tricky situation and while Japan is mulling the decision to fund the country’s entire vaccine rollout, other countries are going to be grappling with the same questions sooner rather than later.
Of course, this all depends on one thing: A safe, effective vaccine. Everyone is very optimistic that we’ll find the solution to this pandemic, but testing and proving a vaccine’s effectiveness takes time, even when it’s being “fast-tracked” as many are today. Side effects, unexpected reactions and long-term safety of a vaccine all need to be considered before treatment can reach everyday citizens. We’re not there yet, but hopefully, we will be soon.