The Cost of Vaccination

On Monday David Cameron pledged another £814m ($1,335m) that we supposedly don’t have to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) over the next 4 years. This brings, according to the figures in their press release, the UKs contribution up to $2,449m once money already contributed is added in.

The other big (min $200m) contributors (in descending order) are:

US$m Who
1,341 Bill and Melinda Gates Charitable Foundation
819 Norway
511 France
506 Italy
450* US
264 Australia
225 Canada
209 Netherlands
209 Sweden

* With another $90m subject to congressional approval.

Yup, that’s right. The UK is contributing, all told, over 33% of the monies pledged and a sum which is greater than the next two donors put together.

Feel free at this point to repeatedly bash your head against the nearest solid object as you marvel in the astonishing profligacy of the UKs elected politicians when it comes to other people’s money.

But is this really all about the money? Is not preventing deaths from diseases which no longer plague what we refer to as the Developed World a good thing? You’d have to be a cold hatred, callous individual to think otherwise, surely?

I won’t try to be that person but I will attempt some crystal-ball gazing.

Let’s work on the premise that preventing the deaths of a projected 3.9m people from diseases such as yellow fever, meningitis, various strains of hepatitis, rubella, typhoid and others over the next 5 years is a good thing and look then to a future where all these people are walking around.

Some obvious items spring to mind:

  1. Food
  2. Resources
  3. Environment

These are all things that, if certain groups are to be believed, are already in crisis due to the current population count. I’m not one of those but I’m not foolish enough to say that adding these extra people, plus whatever offspring they produce, to the system isn’t potentially going to result problems in countries where they already struggle by on subsistence level farming.

Are we also therefore going to subject them to enforced industrialisation, accelerating them through a process which started in the UK at approximately the turn of the 18th Century with agriculture as we moved away from subsistence farming and consequentially were able to develop new industries? That countries in the third world need industrialisation in order to thrive is indisputable but what right have we to force it up on them? And if we don’t are we going to be spending yet more money in the years ahead to provide food aid to all these people we have saved and their descendants?

Those who are ashamed of our colonial past argue that aid is a way to relieve guilt, bloody money as it were, to apologise for leaving them trapped in a world that is technically and socially well beyond where they might otherwise have been. But does continued aid, however it comes, not reduce these countries to the status of welfare dependents, encouraging them to rely on ‘free’ money from overseas instead of standing on their own two feet and moving forwards?

As always there are no easy or glib answers but once again I am left to wonder if anyone is actually even considering the questions.

15 Comments

  1. Demelza says:

    The high birth rate in these parts of the world is at least partly attributable to high childhood mortality rates. In areas where children usually reach adulthood, the birth rate is lower (yes, this is a correlation not an identified cause, and it would be inhumane to set up an objective double blind test).

    I suppose a simplistic view is that we should do this because we can and it is morally right. The bit starting at verse 34 at http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/matthew/matthew25.htm is one of the less misinterpretable bits.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      Whilst I’m all for the idea of good intentions, I simply wonder if people ever consider the consequences of them because at the moment all I see is the prospect of this one costing us lots more money in the future.

      The only sensible answer that I can see is to replace aid with trade. Scrap the likes of the CAP, drop all of the trade barriers and let the markets do their job. Artificial barriers to protect jobs at home only result in higher costs for us and condemn the less developed countries to the ignominy of foreign handouts, much of which is more likely to end up in the hands of those who don’t need it such as bureaucrats (both foreign and domestic), dictators, NGOs etc.

      With trade will eventually come the improvements in health (and thus life expectancies), the availability of easy to acquire contraception and the inevitable decline of religious influence over the family unit. One result of all of those is that the replenishment birth rate drops and within a few generations so the actual birth rate falls to something close to it.

    • JuliaM says:

      I thought the ‘we have to pop ‘em out because they pop off early’ assumption had been challenged time and again (it’s more to do with the low status of women and lots if children being seen as a sign of a man’s virility)..?

  2. Stephan Loy says:

    Awesome, intelligent post. I was at first rather appalled by what I perceived as the callousness of its direction, but as I read on I saw that you’ve considered the problem in a way most people and their governments do not. There really are no simplistic answers. All human interaction is a system and to treat particular parts of the system willy-nilly without regard to the whole rarely bears positive results. There are probably sufficient resources worldwide to ensure a comfortable existence for all mankind, but meeting those requirements would mean not only giving to those in need, but taking from the fatted among us in order to do so. How willing are we to give something up so that others might prosper?

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      If I were to be callous I would say that those cheering Cameron, Gates et al on over this matter are doing so because they know that, as a result of this, they will be (un-)gainfully employed for many more years to come.

  3. WitteringWitney says:

    It also begs the question MG where has all the money gone that these countries have received in the past? On what has it been spent? How much has been syphoned off to ‘other causes’?

    Regardless of the above, I have to say that I believe all aid should cease until we have resolved the plight of our vunerable and needy here in the UK. One looks after one’s own before helping others………

    Before helping others we also need to ensure that as a country we can effectively defend ourselves………

    Before helping others we need to ensure that we have a health and education service that works………….

    Need I continue?

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      No, and as I’m sure you are well aware I don’t disagree with you that foreign aid should be scrapped forthwith – and we should certainly not enshrine in law a commitment to waste 0.7% of GDP on it each year.

  4. Ed P says:

    If it’s indigestible, try GAVI’s con

  5. Furor Teutonicus says:

    XX That countries in the third world need industrialisation in order to thrive is indisputable but what right have we to force it up on them? XX

    If they were not lazy, thick bastards, they would have developed at the same rate as us, and have industrialised themselves as we have.

    To quote a phrase “We all climbed out of the same cave”. It is obvious which of us became the hard working, inventive, and intelectual side of the family, and which became civilisations version of the scrounging “never done a days work in me life me and proud of it, innit” wanking chav, sitting under a tree and waiting for US to invent the “Big god U.N and his big white chariots that magicaly bring food so we can sit around and do fuck all, all day”.

    Let the bastards starve/catch deseases.

  6. […] cost of vaccination June 23, 2011By Simon GibbsThe cost of vaccination – Misanthrope […]

  7. Rogue_Leader says:

    Aid is not about charity. Aid is about continuation of empire by other means. It’s about encouraging a cult of dependency to further imperial ambitions.

    It’s also about profit.

    I suggest you read Private Eye, particularly when they address the behaviour of the CDC.

    @Furor Teutonicus
    I suggest that you, in particular, try reading in general.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      I haven’t read the Eye for a couple of years but the activities of the CDC were regularly featured even then.

  8. Jay says:

    Nice post. Its something I’ve thought about too but haven’t seen much written about. The western world needs to wakeup to the fact that inoculations and food aid sent to impoverished nations with populations that have no concept of birth control is a bad idea that leads to more inhumane pain and suffering. Many people will probably think that its cruel but they should ask themselves this. Whats more inhumane? Ten thousand children starving to death? Or few hundred dying from disease?