Would the Free Market have rolled out the vaccine better?

Cato: Treat vaccine as the valuable commodity it is

Would the market have rolled out the vaccine perfectly? Probably not, but it only needs to have done  better than the clusterfart we have now.

Keep in mind that in selling the doses first to the highest bidder, the bidder would not be you, it would be your insurer. So, who would get the first doses? Those most likely to run up a huge ICU bill and then die so their premiums stop.  Young insureds are likely to only need a few prescriptions for dexamethasone and antibiotics, and maybe an anticoagulant, so their vaccine could be delayed until the supply is available at a lower cost as demand drops.

Perfect? No, but really…

22 thoughts on “Would the Free Market have rolled out the vaccine better?

  1. The use of the prefix “anti” sets a negative tone. To keep the roads to discourse open, I shall no longer call them “anti-vaxxer”. From now on, I will call them “pro-death by means of preventable diseasers”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The highest bidder would be insurance companies or the government. Most people over 65 are either on Medicare or Medicaid (in Long Term Care particularly).

    And I would guess that the people with no insurance, 10’s of millions, are also the most vulnerable with respect to work and living conditions.

    Virginians are complaining about the slow roll out, but the fact is that the supplies are not exactly flowing either.
    And we are not the only state with issues. True, a few small rural states looked great early on.

    I am optimistic that the vaccinations will ramp up considerably after fits and starts.

    Unfortunately, the new strains are showing some resistance to vaccines, so we may be treading water for a while. The biggest impact will be on the economy as people are hoping hard for a return to normalcy soon. The truth is that even with 70-80% vaccination rates, we will still have to mask up and be careful. Until the rest of the world catches up, that means the Third World too, economies will still not return to normal for a good while yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Again, not perfect, but compared to idiocy, a lot better. Consider the article on vaccinating people in VA Beach


      Note the example they chose. a 24 year old IT guy who already was immune from being infected a month ago while thousands of elders wait unprotected.

      No insurance company is that stupid.


      1. Any rushed program involving 7 billion people, or even just 330 million, will have anecdotes of incompetence at all levels.

        Even 99% efficiency would leave 3 million screwups in the wake of trying to adapt to a new world.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. We’re not talking about screwups or even general incompetence, what we have in Virginia is a systematic exclusion of the most vulnerable sector of the population in favor of political supporters with a much smaller risk of hospitalization or death.


  3. So, instead of government bureaucrats managing the distribution of the vaccine in the public interest you would prefer insurance company bureaucrats managing the distribution of the vaccine to maximize their private profits? And just how do the uninsured fit into your daydream? What about those on Medicare? Have you really thought this through or is this another way of complaining that you were not put first in line?

    “No insurance company is that stupid.”
    Do you expect insurance company bureaucrats to be making medical decisions? For-profit death panels?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The free market serves us best when the public good and profit are aligned, which is most of the time. Most good thing in our lives are provided for profit.

      Medicare is an insurer, and would be subject to the same incentives. It’s cheaper to pay more for the vaccine than to keep a patient in an ICU for a month.

      And remember that demand will decrease as more high risk people get vaccinated, allowing the price to fall. The Moderna vaccine can be sold profitably at $15 per dose. The early doses would go for more, but the price would fall a lot faster than Northam will vaccinate elders.


      1. $15 per shot. Wouldn’t that be peachy!

        Your faith in the benevolent behavior of for-profit companies holding life and death monopolies is not based on any evidence and, in fact, requires that you ignore countless examples of extreme price gouging by these same companies.

        ” . . . the price would fall a lot faster than Northam will vaccinate elders.”
        There is absolutely no reason to believe that claim. Supply is the issue and however Phase 1b plays out, it will remain the issue. Nothing about giving the vaccine to the highest bidder will change the number of people who get the vaccine for the next six months at least. The poor and uninsured will get NONE under your scheme. At least by administering it for the public good, they will get some.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. First, I thought Obamacare had eliminated the uninsured.

          $15 is the price, bought in bulk, as an insurer would.

          Virginia has about 13% elders not in nursing homes. They could be vaccinated in about a month. The “essential worker” class is more than 3 times that large, so if the Elders have to wait on the essential workers it will be 3 to 4 months,

          An insurance company would not vaccinate low risk people first, leaving expensively vulnerable to wait.


          1. If a health insurance company can save money be keeping old folks alive no matter the ongoing costs of treatments for all the age related maladies other than COVID I would be amazed.

            Logic and market forces would allow the folks in poor health and advance age die. Comfortably perhaps, but dead nonetheless.

            We need young, healthy workers without lingering effects from the viral infections or the ability to spread the disease. That would be the cold, economic facts based on max profitability.

            We are not robots…yet. We have certain qualities, for good or bad, that tend to override the natural, brutish and short lives in the natural world.

            So we struggle over priorities that are essentially emotional over pragmatic.

            In the case of a pandemic, fairness of outcomes cannot be ignored. You either survive or not based on decisions made by strangers. If those decisions are strictly by economic value, including profit, then you and I are probably toast.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. “First, I thought Obamacare had eliminated the uninsured.”

            Lame. First, the ACA never claimed to have eliminated ALL the uninsured. For one thing, it relied on Republican controlled states to accept the federally funded Medicaid expansion. As we have seen, the Republicans preferred causing avoidable deaths to any kind of cooperation with President Obama. Besides, Obamacare ended 4 years ago and was replaced with Trumpcare. And, as a direct result, the ranks of the uninsured have increased substantially.

            As for responding AGAIN to yet another whine about “essential workers” being ahead of you in the queue, why bother? You are enjoying playing the victim too much to consider that any alternative to you being first in line might make sense.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. First, my wife and I are already vaccinated. It is no longer a personal issue. It is simply rejection of an irrational and corrupt use of the vaccine to reward political supporters at the expense of other old people’s lives, and at everyone’s expense due to the crushing burden on hospitals.

            Remember that we have therapeutics now that will prevent serious illness if used early, but to do that we need hospital capacity to administer them as they are infusions. No one benefits from having hospitals packed with dying old people.


          4. “ First, I thought Obamacare had eliminated the uninsured.”

            Uh, huh. And I’ll bet you believed the administration had a better plan, ready to go as soon as ACA was trashed.

            I do believe that you did.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. A natural market for the Covid vaccine might never develop on its own because 99.9% of potential vaccine users face little risk from the virus. An idealized demand curve that in itself might drive an effective response to the disease might never materialize on its own.

    In my view, that would be a good thing. Not because some people might suffer in the short run, but because the wisdom of the crowd would improve at the fastest possible rate.

    BTW, I don’t see insurance companies as benevolent players in this game. An optimal market for vaccines cannot emerge where patient’s interests are obscured by insurance company interference.


    1. ” . . . because 99.9% of potential vaccine users face little risk from the virus. ”

      Complete and utter nonsense. Does reality never inform the thinking in Trumpmerica?
      EVERYBODY who is exposed to the virus faces multiple serious risks . . .

      1. The risk of dying a horrible death.
      2. The risk of a painful and financially ruinous stay in a hospital
      3. The risk of permanent damage to vital organs
      4. The risk of carrying the virus to a loved one. And KILLING them.
      5. The risk of the pain and suffering of a tough illness – even if survived without hospitalization.

      Obviously, the amount of risk in each of these categories varies by individual age, health and circumstance but no one is immune to all of them without vaccination.

      To put your 99.9% claim in perspective, some months ago we passed the grim milestone where 1 out of every 1,000 Americans has DIED of this virus. And still counting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RE: “EVERYBODY who is exposed to the virus faces multiple serious risks . . .”

        In other words, the demand curve for vaccination is neither standard nor predictable. You make my point.


        1. “You make my point.”
          Uh, no. I did not. The opposite in fact. You say that there would be little demand for the vaccine in a free market because so few people are at risk. Since it seems that you did not understand what I wrote, let me put it this way – Bullshit!

          Liked by 1 person

      1. RE: “In this case, the insurers interests align with the patient’s”

        Nope. As a matter of contract, the insurer’s interests are unique, or at least distinct from those of the patient. In terms of market operation, this is the difference between a kiss by messenger and a real kiss.


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