Can I buy a Covid vaccine privately? Can I pay to have one?

Coronavirus 'nasal spray vaccine' discussed by expert

Elderly care home residents and their carers are first on the list to have a vaccine due to the risks that come alongside their exposure to the virus. This group is followed in priority by anyone else over 80 and frontline health and social care workers. As it stands, more than 130,000 people have been vaccinated after just the first week of the UK’s immunisation programme. Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who is in charge of the vaccine rollout, tweeted 137,897 people had been given their first dose of the Pfizer jab between December 8 and December 15.

Can I buy a Covid vaccine privately?

It is not yet known whether you will be able to have the vaccine privately, but it is a highly unlikely scenario right now.

England’s Chief Deputy Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam said he believes the vaccines should be delivered according to medical priority rather than enabling people who can afford it to jump the queue.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing recently, Professor Van-Tam said: “I am a doctor and I have worked in the NHS for many years.

“One of the things I like about the NHS is that it’s there for everybody, irrespective of their level of wealth or who they are in society.

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“That is a really, really important principle to me, personally.”

However, it’s worth noting manufacturers could choose to sell their vaccines to private suppliers in the future.

For now, though, Pfizer said its focus is on delivering the vaccine to the NHS in line with its agreement with the Government.

Professor Van-Tam said he was not aware of any plans to consider an arrangement where people could pay to be vaccinated.

He did, however, stress “that is a ministerial decision” rather than one healthcare workers and clinicians would make.

Professor Van-Tam added: “I am giving you my views as a clinician that I think these vaccines need to be prioritised to those who need them, not those who can afford to pay for them privately.”

The topic has created some debate among healthcare workers and professionals, who disagree on whether the vaccine should be privately available.

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Can you pay to have a vaccine?

Junior Doctor Tom Gardiner, who is working in a London GP practice, says it’s wrong to let people pay for a vaccine.

Mr Gardiner explained: “My GP clinic yesterday was full of elderly and shielding patients whose lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic.

“It has only strengthened my view that the coronavirus vaccine should be prioritised for those who need it, not those who can afford it.

“Vaccine supply chain shortages are already well documented, and allowing private companies to buy up valuable stock would be a mistake of monumental proportions.”

But according to Kristian Niemitz, head of political economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, having a privately-available vaccine that you pay for makes sense.

Mr Niemitz explained: “The Covid vaccine is not a consumer good like any other, and it should not be allocated like one.

“It should, in the main, be allocated according to clinical need, not willingness or ability to pay.

“But why should there not be a private sector-led, self funded distribution channel on top of the vaccine rollout by the NHS?

“If private sales make additional resources available for the setting up of a private, additional distribution channel, then surely everyone benefits. This is not ‘jumping the queue’. This is setting up a parallel fast-track queue.”

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