Part of the fight against a coronavirus pandemic would be an affordable and accessible vaccine for everyone who needs it, but Heath and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar put profits over lives on Wednesday by telling Congress he won’t promise a vaccine for everyone.

Both Trump and Azar have repeatedly claimed that there will be a coronavirus “soon” even though health experts say it won’t be ready for a year or more.

That’s more than enough time for the virus to sweep across the country, so once a vaccine is ready it will need to be distributed to the population as quickly as possible.

But if Azar and Trump have their way, only those who can afford the vaccine will be able to use it.

During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) grilled Azar in an effort to guarantee that a vaccine would be affordable for everyone. Only Azar, a former Big Pharma executive, rejected the idea that the government should control drug prices.

“You’re saying that it will, for sure, be affordable for anyone who needs it?” Schakowsky asked.

“I’m saying we would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar replied. “Price controls won’t get us there.”

But this is a crisis that could put tens of thousands of lives at risk. Coronavirus has already proven deadly in China, where 2,000 have already died and 80,000 are infected. Other places around the world, including the United States, also have confirmed cases. Despite Trump’s bragging, his administration has responded poorly to the outbreak. This could easily become a major pandemic in the next year, but Azar is apparently just fine with letting Big Pharma set the price of the vaccine when it really should be free of charge to definitively end the outbreak as soon as possible. If people can’t seek treatment because of the price tag, the virus will persist, and that means the most vulnerable among us could die, including the elderly and children.

This is a health emergency. The last thing we should be concerned about is making sure Big Pharma profits off the vaccine. Azar just made the strongest case yet for universal healthcare and drug price controls. Because if this were any other developed nation, this vaccine for be freely distributed or offered at very low cost. Instead, Azar wants to put on price on people’s lives.

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