Sunday, December 27, 2020

[pwuyiiwb] COVID-19 vaccine market price

initially available doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are expected be in short supply.  in order to quell antivax sentiment, consider letting the vaccine doses be sold at market price: do not subsidize, do not permit large institutional buyers (e.g., governments) to dictate or affect the price.  of course, limited supply will cause initial price to be exorbitantly high, making the vaccine initially only accessible to the rich.

thus, the rich will be the first guinea pigs, the first victims of the vaccine's harm if it is harmful as antivaxxers fear.  but the rich have resources, more resources than normal people, to dig deep for information to determine whether the vaccine's benefits outweigh its harms, information they will use to make the personal decision to buy an expensive vaccine dose and have it injected into their own bodies.  the sum of their decisions to buy will get reflected in the market price, and then the (expected) high market price will then serve as proof, a "distributed" proof coming not from the government, not from big corporations (two entities antivaxxers distrust), that a large number of rich people have come to the conclusion that the vaccine is safe to inject into their own bodies.

this is a concrete example of the concept in finance "price carries information", in this case, very important information about the safety of the vaccine, that is otherwise very difficult to credibly communicate to the incredulous.  inspired by auction theory.

quelling antivax sentiment is important for eventually getting enough people vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.  we only get one chance to let the vaccine price be high naturally, not doing it through market manipulation.  manipulating the price later will simply cause the manipulated price not to be a credible conduit for information.

however, this proposal will probably not happen, probably in the name of social justice: the rich should not have higher priority in getting to live.

but social justice might be concealing something more sinister.  the rich would very much prefer not to be the first guinea pigs; it has long been their custom to make poor people their first guinea pigs for things which might be unsafe.  if the vaccine were allowed to be sold at market price, what would be its market price?  probably very volatile at the beginning.

it's likely that governments have pre-ordered, perhaps even prepaid for, vaccine doses.  however, the government can still resell at market price.

even though this proposal calls for not subsidizing, rich people might privately band together to "philathropically" buy or subsidize doses for poor people, actually to conduct field trials to test the vaccine's safety on the poor.  however, information is a public good which results in the free rider problem, so it'll require significant cooperation among the rich to do this.  perhaps such cooperation is accomplished through the standard means of cooperation to produce a public good: a government.

on one hand, this is obviously already happening in government mandated clinical vaccine trials (Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3) whose results are scientifically vetted and published as public goods.  on the other hand, there are likely many rich people who don't trust such studies on their own enough to be personally vaccinated, so would prefer testing on a large population of poor people first.  hypothesize that those rich people, who form far less than a majority, have lobbied government to subsidize or dictate a low price for vaccine doses for the poor, using social justice as a sinister cover.

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