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The Coronavirus Calculation – How Many People Should We Kill?

Imagine that we had an effective vaccine against the coronavirus. We’d give it to everyone, right?

Well, no, we wouldn’t. Because we have the usual public health calculation we need to do. How many people will die in order that some other number of people won;t die? In fact, how many do we deliberately go out and kill in order to save some other number of lives?

The situation would have to be a little worse before vaccines got distributed widely, since everything has a cost, and everything is dangerous. Yes, even vaccines have a danger, however much the anti-vaccine crowd is deranged on the subject.

The bare facts, at least as far as anyone knows them yet, are that a global rollout of a coronavirus vaccine would kill some 7,000 people or so. Of course, we’re never going to get everyone vaccinated. And I’m guessing here, but that average death rate from vaccination, for all things, is one in a million. Yes, that’s including those influenza shots the old folks are abjured to get every winter — we know that some will die because of them. That we know this is exactly why we have the vaccine compensation program.

Because even though there’s a small danger to all who have the shots, there’s a much greater danger to those who don’t. That greater danger is 61,000 deaths from the flu annually in the United States alone.

Few like being reminded of this which is why Sowell’s “Compared to what?” is such a powerful question. Only if the coronavirus gets rather worse will it be worth, in the My Lai sense, killing people in order to save lives.

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thefat tomato
thefat tomato
4 years ago

interesting that you compare the possible expenditure patterns of the price of a hypothetical vaccine; vaccine or beer, as if thats the only outcome, same thing economists did with HIV and antiretrovirals.
same failure to learn that lesson.
its not about comparing vaccine prices vs beer prices but about comparing
vaccine expenditure but no further medical expenditure and no detrimental effect on trade and commerce vs
no vaccine expenditure but plus medical expenditure for those that fall ill plus loss of trade and commerce

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