The global urgency to vaccinate people against Covid-19 is facing two big hurdles, both of which can be attributed to faulty government decisions.
First, U.S. officials have halted administration of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine pending an investigation about six women who developed a rare blood clot disorder after receiving the vaccine, one of whom has died. All were younger women—median age 33.
New York Times statistician Nate Silver criticized the decision, tweeting: “This is going to get people killed. And it’s going to create more vaccine hesitancy. These people [federal authorities] don’t understand cost-benefit analysis. They keep making mistakes by orders of magnitude.”
So far, 7.5 million people in the U.S. have received a J&J shot so less than 0.001 percent of recipients have been impacted.
Silver calculates the likelihood of dying from Covid because of vaccine delays is one in 15,000 vs. a risk of one in 7 million from a blood clot. Dr. Joel Zinberg says the more prudent decision would be to alert “the medical community about the possibility of the clots and the required treatment without recommending a pause which will likely permanently undermine public confidence in this much needed vaccine.”
No date has been set for a follow-up meeting of the federal body, forcing pharmacies, medical centers, and others to cancel appointments for patients scheduled to receive J&J doses. Additional blood clot complications have been reported in Europe associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine that uses the same vaccine platform as J&J’s so investigations need to continue.
The U.S. has Operation Warp Speed leaders to thank for deciding to spread the risk in hopes of multiple vaccines being successful. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines continue to be administered uninterrupted.
And Joel White, who heads the Council for Affordable Health Coverage, attributes that to the uniquely robust U.S. pharmaceutical research and manufacturing sector.
He compares the U.S. vaccination rate to Europe’s: 36% of the population in the U.S. has received at least one vaccine dose vs only 15% in Europe. Europe is facing another wave of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths with new lockdowns, while the U.S. is seeing a steady decline in the death rate and reopenings in most states.
While there’s no single reason for the differences, White says “one major factor is the European Union’s obsession with paying less for Covid-19 immunizations than many other countries. Whereas Israel – by far the world leader in Covid-19 vaccinations – agreed to pay $25 for each dose, and the United States paid $20, the EU held out for a discount, ultimately paying $15 to $19…
“According to one analysis, each dollar the EU shaved off the price of its vaccines adds up to around $1 billion in savings, but that figure is dwarfed by the economic cost of the vaccine’s slow-rollout.
“A recent analysis found that the delayed rollout could cost the European economy close to $107 billion this year. That’s more than four times what the EU paid for its vaccines.”
But the loss of lives from the delays while the EU wasted precious time on price negotiations is incalculable.
And here’s the kicker: Democrats in Congress want to push the U.S. down the same path, putting European-style price controls on U.S. pharmaceuticals, drying up the research capacity that allowed the U.S. to be the world leader in vaccine development.
Democrats intend to push their drug price-control bill—H.R. 3—”through the budget reconciliation process, which allows the Senate to pass legislation with only a simple majority. And the reform can’t be filibustered. So, the chances that H.R. 3 becomes law have never been greater,” White reports.
“Europe’s catastrophic vaccine rollout has shown the high cost, in money and lives, of price controls. Importing those policies here would have disastrous consequences for American patients and end up costing us all more in the long run.”
Finally, you may want to register to attend a Heritage webinar this coming Monday, April 19th at 2:00pm EST, Conservatives Must Lead in Solving Americans’ Health Care Problems, featuring The Honorable Newt Gingrich, an interview with House Republican Study Committee Chair Jim Banks, with discussion by Doug Badger, John Goodman, Dean Clancy, and Dan Ziegler. Marie Fishpaw will moderate.