The European Union has not been covering itself in glory over the vaccine rollout. Petty nationalism, technocratic bumbling and, to make things worse, flat out insanity:
In this case it was an elemental error to put trade hagglers in charge of a health emergency. Rather than spend months trying to drive down the price – when the imperative was time – the Commission should have done the opposite. Germany’s IfO Institute said it should have paid a dose premium to bring forward production since the cost of pandemic measures in lost GDP is hundreds of times greater. IfO calculates that the economic utility of each shot is €1,500.
The EU treated Big Pharma as the enemy when it should have been pulling out all the stops to help these companies. “Liability and indemnification, these were really important for us,” said Ms Gallina yesterday. Well quite. That was the problem.
Quite so, that was the problem. Because governments have faced this liability problem for vaccines before. The answer being that governments assume them.
The reason being that if you give something to 450 million people then some of them will die. Give the population of Europe aspirin, or green tea, brussel sprouts or a vaccine and some of them will die as a result. That just how the variation of a human population works. Everything is poisonous to someone.
Yet we really do rather desire that all those 450 million get vaccinated. Or at least as many as we can leaving out those we know will be harmed by it. Even among those we don’t know about some will still die. That’s just the nature of any whole population exercise in doing anything. But we know we want to, need to, do the whole population thing.
We can even say that we’re trying to create a public good, that herd immunity. And it would be most unfair of us to gain the profits of that herd immunity, that public benefit, but then dump the inevitable costs of the deaths upon private economic actors. That would be the socialisation of benefits and the privatisation of costs – as worrisome as the other way around.
Actually, worse, for private economic actors who are going to have those public costs dumped upon them without gaining the profits of the public benefit just aren’t going to do this private economic activity.
So, there’s a general solution to this:
If you’re severely disabled as a result of a vaccination against certain diseases, you could get a one-off tax-free payment of £120,000. This is called a Vaccine Damage Payment.
Government carries the vaccination liability and does the indemnification. Because that’s just the way to make the system work.
At which point consider the selling point of the European Union. All these difficult technical questions over how we’re ruled are going to be taken over by a disinterested yet benevolent technocracy. Then we get to the reality, which is that the technocracy has no damn clue how the system already works. This doesn’t bode well, does it?