Thanks to the hard work of scientists all over the world, we may have a coronavirus vaccine, or several, by next year. In the midst of their development, and well before their arrival, lawmakers are demagoguing about what those therapies will cost.
In a recent Senate hearing, some lawmakers proposed letting the government set the price of any eventual coronavirus vaccine, ostensibly to ensure that it’s affordable. That would be a colossal mistake. Imposing price controls would destroy a research process that has produced promising coronavirus vaccine candidates with unprecedented speed.
Developing a new vaccine is risky and expensive. A 2002 study estimated that it takes up to $500 million and more than a decade to bring a single inoculation to market. Only about 40% of candidate vaccines make it across the finish line and into patients, so a lot of the money and time spent developing promising vaccines ends up for naught.
If lawmakers set artificially low prices for vaccines, manufacturers won’t have the opportunity to recoup their costs. As a result, they’ll hesitate to invest in new research, and the prospects for a successful vaccine for the next confounding disease will diminish.
We certainly need to make sure that coronavirus vaccines are affordable but as Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar recently said, “Price controls won’t get us there.” We’ll win the battle against COVID-19 and other forms of disease by rewarding innovation, not punishing it.
Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.
Read More: Don’t levy price controls on a coronavirus vaccine