Columns Opinion

HIV vaccine plagued by price

A vaccine to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, stemming from the productivity of Thailand’s ongoing trials, is close to acquiring a license in the U.S. After years of trials, where it would be administered to every subject the distributor can get its hands on, the drug would then be inspected in line with its production notes, actual production and the inspection of its production facility.

Assuming that all of the guidelines were met, the vaccine would begin ascension into the market of commerce. The market is where the end of the line is drawn, and the final product becomes candy for the eyes of affluent window shoppers, the key word being affluent.

David Haydon/The Daily Cougar

Because despite the fact that HIV has been responsible for the decimation of several less prosperous Western civilizations and the deaths of an unquantifiable number of remembered and forgotten lives, the vaccine will remain inaccessible to most of the population. At least the working class.

The first step to scrapping an issue is acknowledging the problem itself. On paper, the notion looks enough like common sense to take for granted, but actually putting the method to practice proves otherwise. It’s inconvenient, to say the least. And more so than just about anything else, it’s this reluctance toward acknowledgement that has made this month’s HIV developments nearly obsolete for the general public — namely, a public that refuses to beg the question.

The short answer is that they won’t be able to afford it. Although the incentive for the vaccine may have been the preservation of human lives, maintaining an uninterrupted production will force exorbitant prices coming out the gate. Six figures, at best, an entirely different tax bracket, at worst. And it’s an ugly practice, because it has to be.

The price of creating the vaccine includes the costs associated with lab maintenance, worker pay, volunteer compensation and, if necessary, debt control. Like student loans, each of these debts has to be paid, regardless of the consequences otherwise. The moral agenda is an important one, but even more important for the individual scientists is their ability to put dinner on the table. So, they’ll split the difference the only way they know how: from the buyer.

Problem is, the groups that most need the drug won’t be able to afford it. No matter how effective it proves, until the price point is addressed, the vaccine won’t really exist at all. And although the common-sense solution might be clear, the acknowledgement of this inconvenience could be a harder pill to swallow than the cure itself.

Bryan Washington is a sociology sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].


Leave a Comment