The question of whether health is a public good or a private good is vital to policy-makers and healthcare professionals. Understanding these differences is critical to healthcare providers since they will know how to provide various public goods and services to people (Getzen, 2013). For example, they will appreciate their role in ensuring that all citizens can access good healthcare services despite their economic status. In economics, public goods are non-rivalrous and non-excludable. The use of one person does not diminish their availability to other people. It is also almost impossible to exclude one from its use. A public good is almost a contrast of a private good, in which people can be excluded from their use through charging a fee.
Health services may not entirely suit the public goods since those individuals who may not be able to pay for them may not get a good health. However, plans such as the introduction of universal health coverage try to make health a public good. They close the gap in the market by ensuring that all citizens can afford good healthcare services irrespective of their ability to pay for them. Healthcare professionals can determine whether a health service is a public or a private good by considering its overall benefits and the diminishing effects of consumption (Getzen, 2013). For example, a vaccine against cancer can be a private good while similar vaccine against contiguous diseases like smallpox and COVID-19 may be classified as a public good. Nutritional advice plan and safe labeling of pharmaceutical products may also fall under public goods since the providers may not exclude some people from their benefits.
Vaccination has occurred in the world for many years to eradicate various kinds of pandemics. It is an excellent example of a public good since all people need to get it whether they can pay for it or not. Pertussis vaccine is a public good since the disease is highly contagious but can be easily prevented by vaccination. It can cause severe illness in teens, children, and even adults. The government cannot allow the private sector to provide it since it may be expensive for some groups, especially low-income earners, to afford it (Pauly, 2007). The vaccination qualifies to be a public good since its provision to some people does not reduce its availability to other groups in the community. There is no rivalry in the consumption of the vaccine because many people can access it at the same time without competition. Its benefits are also non-excludable in society. Although the immunity that a person may gain from the vaccination is excludable, the entire community cannot be excluded from accessing those benefits. The vaccination will ensure all members of the community are free from the risks of the disease even though they may not be vaccinated at a personal level.
The Economic Impacts of the Vaccination
Classifying the Pertussis vaccine as a public good implies that the government will incur most of the costs associated with its provision. It will be required to allocate funds in its annual budget to provide the vaccine using taxpayers’ money. The government has to ensure all people can access good healthcare and to promote public safety (Pauly, 2007). As a result, all people will be able to access the vaccine irrespective of their financial ability to pay for it. However, players in the private sectors will not be willing to offer this service since they are not able to exclude some people from its benefits.
Getzen, T. (2013). Health economics and financing (5th ed.). Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Pauly, M. (2007). Risks and benefits in health care: The view from economics. Health Affairs, 26(3), 653–662.