Tag: scarcity

According to Sir Liam Donaldson, England’s Chief Medical Officer, swine flu is on its way back. However, vaccinations are now available to the most vulnerable people, including front-line medical staff, people with chronic health problems and pregnant women. But, what about every-day workers? Surely, these are people that need protecting too, as they are the ones who contribute to the economy. How do you prioritise?

A key question is how much swine flu has actually cost the UK economy. Here, we’re not just concerned with the cost of the vaccines, but also the opportunity cost of that money, the lost output from illness, the human suffering – both of the victims and of their relatives and friends – and, of course, the impact on business and the economy. Some of the countries worst hit by the outbreak of swine flu have faced particular problems, such as protectionist trade policies and a significant fall in business through tourism.

So, will the vaccine prove cost effective for the government, or is it more about the moral obligation to provide it? These articles look at some of the recent developments in the worst pandemic in years.

Mexico economy squeezed by swine flu BBC News (30/4/09)
Swine flu vaccine on its way to GPs Grimsby Telegraph (21/10/09)
Exclusive – WTO protectionism report to feature swine flu bans Reuters (12/6/09)
Flu bill ‘may hit fire plans’ Teletext (27/10/09)
Swine flu vaccination under way BBC News (21/10/09)
Swine flu costs have put dent in profits, Amerigroup says Pilot Online, Tom Shean (27/10/09)
Swine flu gives Pharmaceutical Companies a New Edge Top News, Tangaroa Snell (26/10/09)
Economic cost of swine flu could be around $3 trillion to $4.4 trillion Today’s Zaman (Turkey) (2/11/09)
Swine flu mass vaccination programme launched Guardian (21/10/09)
Full list of swine flu cases, country by country Guardian (updated daily)
Doctors plan mass swine flu jabs for under-18s Times Online (1/11/09)

Questions

  1. What is the opportunity cost of swine flu? How could you illustrate this on a diagram?
  2. Vaccines are going to those at risk first. Why is this particularly relevant in terms of the economic problem?
  3. What is protectionism and what are the main forms? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of protectionist policies in the context of swine flu.
  4. If the government had to decide whether or not a swine flu vaccine was worth producing, how could they have done this? Outline the process by which costs and benefits can be weighed up. Are there any drawbacks to this method?
  5. How have businesses been affected by swine flu? Think about those who have benefited as well as those that have lost.