While talking to reporters, President Trump said he is looking into making the coronavirus vaccine free for the American public.
People across the country are bearing the toll of the coronavirus pandemic. A vaccine is nowhere in sight, at least for now. When asked if a coronavirus vaccine would be made available to the public for free, Trump said the administration is ‘looking at’ the possibility.
This is not the first time a discussion about making the coronavirus vaccine free has come up. Earlier in March, HHS Secretary Azar refused to guarantee a free vaccine for COVID-19. He argued that private pharmaceutical companies may lose interest in developing a vaccine if they can’t set a market price.
Calls For Free Coronavirus Vaccine Gain Momentum
The demand for free vaccine gaining acceptance from Trump and the White House is essential. Back in February, Congressional Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were talking about ensuring that the eventual coronavirus vaccine is affordable, not free.
Progressives didn’t take kindly to the statement.
President Trump’s statement would be welcome news for progressives. On Friday, Trump also talked about Operation Warp Speed and the accelerated push towards finding and mass-producing a vaccine.
According to the Census Bureau, 27.5M Americans were uninsured in 2018. This translates to roughly 8.5% of the country’s people. A free coronavirus vaccine is essential, especially for uninsured citizens.
In a Senate hearing earlier in the week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders asked the FDA commissioner if the coronavirus vaccine would be available to every American regardless of their income. The FDA commissioner told Sanders that he would take his question back to the White House Task Force. The commissioner also agreed that every American must have access to the coronavirus vaccine.
HHS Secretary Azar was less sure about a free coronavirus vaccine during the same Senate hearing. Azar, reiterating the point he made back in March, said that making the vaccine required investment from private companies. The investment would be less forthcoming if the vaccine were to be free.
Why Is It Important to Talk About the Vaccine?
While a vaccine is still far away, there is a need for assurances on its universal availability. The pandemic has hit the vulnerable parts of society harder. Record unemployment and GDP contraction are plaguing the economy. At such a stage, demanding citizens to pay for an eventual vaccine is as tone-deaf as it is wrong.
This pandemic is arguably the greatest healthcare crisis in a century. Making the coronavirus vaccine free and allowing the country to move on from the crisis is essential.
Making the vaccine affordable will again leave out some people at the bottom rung of the pyramid.
Jonas Salk made the polio vaccine free and helped the world emerge from a deep healthcare crisis. T
he coronavirus vaccine, when it is available, should be accessible to every American citizen.
(Image Credit – Department of Defence)