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s, he says, are a “policy boil” that needs to be lanced.

There is, Mr Farlow points out, no such thing as “a” malaria vaccine.

JESUIT missionaries in Peru stumbled across the first effective treatment for malaria: an alkaloid called quinine, extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree.

Unfortunately, a vaccine for this resilient disease, or other big killers such as tuberculosis (, does not grow on trees.

Michael Kremer, an economist at Harvard University, argues that donors—ie, rich countries' governments—could engineer a market where none yet exists*.

They should make a legally binding commitment to buy a vaccine, if and when one is invented.

This elegant notion, often called an “advance purchase commitment” (idea is also collecting critics.

None is more dogged than Andrew Farlow, an economist at Oxford University and author of a sprawling critique† of Mr Kremer's big idea and its application to malaria in particular.

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If his scheme fails, the public purse has lost hardly a cent.Mr Kremer sincerely hopes s will help provide the world's poor with much-needed vaccines.It might; but despite his best intentions it might instead provide politicians with a prophylactic against other pressing demands for their help. Available at “The Science, Economics and Politics of Malaria Vaccine Policy”.Second, in its current incarnation, the creates some room for later vaccines to enter the market.Money will not be showered on a company the moment it crosses the finish line, but will be paid out a little at a time.

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