Free vaccines save lives and money
The last day of 2020 brought with it the good news that a domestic inactivated COVID-19 vaccine has received conditional government approval for use, raising hopes of preventing the virus from upsetting our lives again this year.
The even better news is that, according to Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission, the vaccine is a public product and everyone will get it for free.
Some have questioned this wisdom, saying it would cost 500 billion yuan ($77.2 billion) to vaccinate a 1.4 billion population at 200-300 yuan per dose and two doses per head.
However, they must understand that vaccinating 70 to 80 percent of the population will help control the spread of the virus. Vaccinating everyone will cost a lot, but it is nothing when compared to the losses that might otherwise accrue because of the medical costs in treating the infected people, suspended businesses and lockdowns.
In the past two weeks, people in several districts of Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, had to undergo nucleic acid tests following new infection cases. Even business was suspended. People in Shunyi district of Beijing, too, were encouraged not to go out unless necessary.
A nucleic acid test costs about 120 yuan and its results are valid for just seven days. However, once people are vaccinated, there will be lesser possibility of infections.
According to a study, between 1992 and 2013, Beijing spent 130 million yuan on the hepatitis B vaccine, saving 1.15 billion yuan in medical costs by preventing diseases. Considering its high infection rate, the cost-benefit ratio is likely to be even higher for the COVID-19 vaccines.
More importantly, vaccinations save lives. Between 1992 and 2017, the rate of hepatitis B infections in Beijing alone dropped from 6.03 to 2.73 percent, saving tens of thousands of lives.
Of course, people are still advised to wear masks and maintain social distancing so as to prevent the epidemic from coming back.