Privileges and Privacy for the Rulers

Recent journalistic investigations revealed that the family and friends of New York governor Andrew Cuomo benefited from nomenklatura privileges at the time when ordinary people had problems getting Covid-19 tests and timely results. These state-privileged people could be tested rapidly, often at home and many times if they wished. Their tests were often rushed to laboratories by state troopers and treated in priority. Liz Wolfe of Reason Magazine writes:

There was limited testing if you thought you’d been exposed, and long wait times if you did manage to nab one of those precious few tests.

But not if your last name starts with a C and ends with an uomo! …

The Albany Times Union reported last night that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state’s top health officials to prioritize COVID testing for “the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration.”

This reminded me that, in late December, I reported on Cuomo’s intention to prosecute those who would give or sell Covid-19 vaccines to anybody outside the groups favored by the state and its priorities (“Free Enterprise: A Daring New Year Wish”). At that time, I asked the governor’s office, through its website, if he had himself received the vaccine. Two weeks later, having received no reply, I rapidly drafted a freedom-of-information request (called Freedom of Information Law or FOIL request in New York State) and emailed it to both the governor’s office and the New York State Department of Health.

The two replies landed in my virtual mailbox a few days apart in January. The letter from the Executive Chamber of the State of New York said:

This letter responds to your correspondence dated January 12, 2021, which pursuant to FOIL, requested:

“the dates Governor Cuomo, members of his family, and immediate staff have received vaccines against Covid-19; and indicate in which group of priority recipients (according to the State of New York’s policies) they fall.”

To the extent your request is reasonably described, these records are not maintained by the NYS Executive Chamber.

Please be advised that even assuming such records were maintained by the Executive Chamber, they would be exempt pursuant to Public Officers Law § 87(2)(b) because, if disclosed, would “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Additionally, pursuant to Public Officers Law § 87(2)(a), an agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that are “specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute.” Accordingly, to the extent records may exist said records are exempt from production pursuant to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, Public. Law 104-191 and New York State Public Health Law §18.

The reply from the Department of Health was not very different:

This letter responds to your Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request of January 12, 2021, in which you requested “the dates Governor Cuomo, members of his family, and immediate staff have received vaccines against Covid-19; and indicate in which group of priority recipients (according to the State of New York’s policies) they fall.”

Please be advised, the records you are requesting, to the extent such records exist, contain protected health information (PHI) regarding the individuals referenced in your request. In accordance with New York State law and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) (Federal Law 45 C.F.R. §164.524), the Department requires a duly executed HIPAA authorization form in order to release PHI regarding any individual. We note your request was not accompanied by any HIPAA authorization forms.

Accordingly, your request is denied pursuant to POL §87(2)(a) as “specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute” in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) (Federal Law 45 C.F.R. §164.524), and §87(2)(b), because disclosure “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

We now know that the governor himself waited his turn and received the vaccine in mid-March with much public fanfare.

The replies to my FOIL requests, however, show something interesting. One might have thought that privacy laws were meant to protect individuals against Leviathan’s lust for private information. But these laws seem to have been hijacked to protect the privacy of the rulers themselves. Perhaps actual governments don’t work as their ideal models?

Is “highjack” exaggerated? Consider the following. If, as current legal doctrine claims, ordinary individuals have no expectation of privacy when they enter an air terminal or cross the U.S. border or relate to their loving governments in certain other ways, why would political rulers have an expectation of privacy while they serve the people and sacrifice themselves for the “public good”?

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

The Pandemic in Europe and America

The pandemic evolution now appears to be more worrying in Europe than in America, as illustrated by the graph below reproduced from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (Marcus Walker, Bertrand Benoit, and Stacy Meichtry, “Europe Confronts a Covid-19 Rebound as Vaccine Hopes Recede,” March 12, 2021). In France, for example, after two very long and restrictive (even tyrannical) national lockdowns, ICUs are close to 80% capacity. The Wall Street Journal explains:

Europe’s efforts continue to suffer from the EU’s slowness in procuring and approving vaccines, production delays at vaccine makers, and bureaucratic holdups in injecting available doses.

The “production delays at vaccine makers” are most likely due to the fact that the EU government has not purchased them in time while, of course, there as in America, individuals and private organizations cannot purchase them.

Those who have read Ayn Rand’s famous novel may wonder if Atlas is shrugging more visibly in Europe than in America. As for those Europeans who put all their faith in an omniscient and all-powerful welfare state, they seem deeply disappointed (although they may be asking for more). In Germany, 30% don’t trust the competence of Angela Merkel’s center-right government and trust even less her center-left parliamentary allies.

The progression of new covid variants in Europe may be an immediate culprit, but a major reason for that is that European governments, under the punctilious EU government, have been slower than the US government in making vaccines widely available to the public.

Yet, the vaccine rollout in America has not been a marvel of federal or state planning. Four months after Pfizer announced the completion of its clinical trial, three months and a half after it started delivering doses to the United States, and three months after the vaccine was approved by the FDA, only 10% of Americans are fully vaccinated and another 10% have received a first dose (according to data from the Wall Street Journal). As far as we can see, this was, although not exactly warp speed, fast enough to prevent the variants from outrunning the building of herd immunity. This relative American success was achieved with much fewer restrictions to individual liberties than in most European countries. Federalism and popular resistance have been a big advantage.

It is notable that Pfizer and its partner BioNTech were not full-fledged participants in Operation Warp Speed. Pfizer did not accept research funding to develop its vaccine. The New York Times explained (“Was the Pfizer Vaccine Part of the Government’s Operation Warp Speed?” November 10, 2020):

In July [2020], Pfizer got a $1.95 billion deal with the government’s Operation Warp Speed, the multiagency effort to rush a vaccine to market, to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine. The arrangement is an advance-purchase agreement, meaning that the company won’t get paid until they deliver the vaccines. Pfizer did not accept federal funding to help develop or manufacture the vaccine, unlike front-runners Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla made that clear (see “Leading Covid-9 Vaccine Makers Pfizer and Moderna Decline Invitations to White Summit ‘Vaccine Summit’,” Stat, December 7, 2020):

Bourla later defended the decision to decline federal research and development funding, citing a desire to “liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy” and “keep Pfizer out of politics.”

Except perhaps for that, the pandemic does not provide a strong confirmation of the benefits of American free enterprise. There may be more free enterprise in America than in Europe, but it’s a matter of degree. In America too, the distribution of the vaccines has been basically a governmental affair. And think about the “price-gouging” laws that have prevented market price adjustments in 42 states, not counting the Defense Production Act at the federal level. (See Rik Chakraborti and Gavin Roberts, “Anti-Gouging Laws, Shortages, and Covid-19,” Journal of Private Enterprise 35:4 (2020), pp. 1-20.)

Perhaps the administrative-welfare state, in both Europe and America, is not as good as we thought?

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

In Praise of CVS

As I mentioned in a recent post, Monterey County, where I live, is behind almost every other part of the country in achieving vaccinations.

Enter CVS.

Last Friday, my wife, Rena, got on a user-friendly CVS site to see where she could get vaccinated. She was still working with it when I left for work. I have a 10-minute commute. A minute after I arrived at work, she called and told me that she had an appointment for the following Monday, Feb. 15, in Capitola, about 45 minutes north of us. She told me how to get on and find an appointment. I got on the site and it seemed that everything had been taken. I called her and told her that.

Rena said, “You always give up too early. Let me try it. How far are you willing to drive?”

“Quite far,” I said. I was picturing driving 2 or 3 hours to Modesto or Fresno. Ten minutes later she called back and had an appointment for me on the next day, Saturday, Feb. 13, in Santa Clara, a 75-minute drive each way. I drove up there the next day. I called a friend on the way, a fellow Canadian who had come with me to UCLA in 1972, and told him that I hadn’t been that excited since getting my green card. A couple of hours later, I got the Moderna shot.

Thank you, CVS. I like you so much more than the Monterey County government.

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

Great Moment in Public Service Number 12,933

I live in Monterey County, where the Monterey County Health Officer, Dr. Edward Moreno, has had a lot of control over our daily lives since last March. Many of us were hoping that at least he would do his job and get Monterey County its pro rata share of the Covid-19 vaccines allocated to California.

No such luck.

Here’s what a local weekly publication, the Carmel Pine Cone, reported in an email on February 13:

On Thursday the Wall Street Journal, citing data from Feb. 9, reported that Alabama had the worst vaccination rate in the nation, with just 10,013 doses administered per 100,000 residents. But on the same date, Monterey County said only about 8,000 doses had been administered here per 100,000 county residents. Nationwide county-by-county vaccination data doesn’t seem to be publicly available, but if Monterey County is that far behind Alabama, the county’s vaccination rate has to be one of the worst in the country.

Many of us suspect that Dr. Moreno has not been aggressive in pushing our county’s case and getting more vaccines.

And in a front-page news story in the February 12 Pine Cone, we might have found out why. Here’s a paragraph from a story about the grilling that Monterey County supervisor Mary Adams got in a recent town hall:

As for Moreno, who is often under fire for his poor communication skills, failure to crack down on the county’s hot spots and dysfunctional vaccine rollout, she [Supervisor Mary Adams] said, “I hear so many people say Dr. Moreno is not the greatest communicator. Dr. Moreno is the most shy person I have ever met, and this is agony for him to have to speak publicly. He also is very conscious of giving precise and correct answers.”

The reporter, Mary Schley, adds:

Unmentioned during the call was the fact that Moreno’s job description requires him to be able to “prepare clear and concise written and oral reports,” and “speak effectively before large groups.”

 

 

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

Vaccine Adventures

Following up on information that Covid-19 vaccines were available there, I walked into the small Maine pharmacy. I saw nobody inside, not even at the cash register. I continued to the back of the store: nobody manned the two counters of the pharmacist’s hideout. I stood in front of one. After just a few minutes, an employee appeared on the other side.

“Could I see the pharmacist?” I asked.

The pharmacist came.

“I have been told that you have Covid vaccines,” I said.

“We have a waiting list,” she replied.

I asked to be put on it but she would not, or could not, tell me when they were likely to phone me for an appointment. I recognized something like the Canadian health system, under which I lived for decades.

“Is it a matter of days, weeks, months, or years,” I asked.

“Days. At least.”

That looked good, except for the “at least.” In some of the on-line and mortar-and-brick places, there is not even a queue you can get at the back of.

At this stage, the actual vaccines don’t seem to be the problem. In the United States, the manufacturers have delivered twice as many vaccines as have been administered. According to the Wall Street Journal (Jared S. Hopkins and Arian Camp-Flores, “Demand for Covid-19 Vaccines Overwhelms State Health Providers,” February 8, 2021),

[a]lthough state officials often cite limited vaccine supply, manufacturers are producing largely on schedule. Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. since December have supplied about 60 million doses, nearly one-third of the 200 million the companies together must deliver by the end of March.

State governments are supposed to distribute the vaccines that the federal government, after literally monopolizing the market, makes available to them. The length of the queues varies from place to place, perhaps depending partly on the success of whatever entrepreneurship can creep into what is basically a socialized distribution system. One Missouri hospital has a waiting list of 100,000 names and no vaccine left. Queues are not an efficient way to ration demand.

In the former Soviet Union, the government always had an excuse for shortages. The real problem was different: no private property, no market prices to signal scarcities, and no free entrepreneurship to respond to the signals.

In America, once the federal government has purchased them, the Covid vaccines are priced at zero, which implies that government allocation is required. At a zero price, demand is much larger than the quantity that bureaucrats can supply. The fee governments pay providers (hospitals, pharmacies, and such) for administering the vaccines may not be higher than the latter’s cost. For example, Medicare pays about $40 for administering the two doses of the currently available vaccines. In a flash of economic realism, Joe Biden has expressed some concern that this fee may not be sufficient.

It is no consolation that all governments in the “free” world have adopted similar policies. No “American exceptionalism” here.

For Soviet agricultural production, the weather was often the excuse. For Covid vaccines, we are told that “the supply chain” and logistics are the problem. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jennifer Smith reported (“Mass Vaccination Sites Will Mean Scaling Up Logistics Coordination,” January 30, 2021):

Other local health departments might need information technology help to cope with overwhelmed appointment systems, or assistance with planning and sourcing the labor, supplies and procedures needed to administer hundreds of shots a day. “People underestimate that this is a massive logistics operation,” Dr. Wen said. “That type of expertise is often missing in state and local public health.”

But except for governments—that is, political and bureaucratic processes—that should not be an unsurmountable logistics problem. Private businesses without central coordination produce and deliver the food, in innumerable configurations, for the daily meals of 320 million Americans. Recall the Russian official who, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, asked British economist Paul Seabright, “Who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?”

In 2020, Amazon shipped 4.5 billion packages to American consumers—more than 12 million per day. The UPS hub in Louisville, Kentucky has a five-million-square-foot facility for sorting and treating more than 400,000 packages or documents per day. The hub sees 387 inbound or outbound flights daily from the company’s fleet of nearly 600 aircraft. What is more impressive is to think of the millions of individuals around the country and around the world who work in long and diverse supply chains to provide the equipment and inputs necessary for UPS’s operations. We are reminded of Leonard Read 1958 essay I, Pencil, which explains how the manufacture of a simple pencil requires the voluntary cooperation of a multitude of individuals producing, without a mastermind, the zinc, the copper, the graphite, and the equipment to make pencils out of that, and all the equipment for producing that equipment, and so on.

Although working under no central direction, these innumerable people who contribute to the production of pencils or UPS’s equipment and supplies are coordinated by markets (supply and demand) and the prices that signal what is needed where.

Compare this to the federal government’s “centralized system to order, distribute, and track COVID-19 vaccines” in which “all vaccines will be ordered through the CDC” (see the description by Anthony Fauci’s shop: COVID-19 Vaccine Questions and Answers, accessed February 10, 2021), the price for the final consumer is zero, and providers are paid fees determined by bureaucrats. No wonder the distribution runs into problems. The contrary would be surprising.

Note that the vaccine could still be free for the final customer if the federal government had simply subsidized consumers for their vaccine purchases (with vouchers, for example) and had let markets, entrepreneurship, competition, and prices distribute the stuff. And it wouldn’t take ages, luck, and some humility to put one’s hands on the thing—or one’s arm under the syringe.

The consumer who wants a vaccine gets a small taste of what French philosopher Raymond Ruyer, in his 1969 book Éloge de la société de consommation (In Praise of the Consumer Society), described as the difference between a market economy, where the consumer is sovereign, and a planned economy, where the producer runs the show (under government’s control):

In a market economy, demand gives orders and supply is supplicant . . . In a planned economy, supply give orders and demand is supplicant.

« Dans l’économie de marché, la demande est impérieuse, et l’offre suppliante (the supply is supplying). Dans l’économie planifiée, l’offre est impérieuse, et la demande suppliante. »

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

A Race Between Vaccines and the Virus as Recoveries Diverge

By Gita Gopinath In just three months since we released our last forecast in October, recorded COVID-19 deaths have doubled to over 2 million, as new waves have lifted infections past previous peaks in many countries. In these same three months, multiple vaccines have seen unexpectedly strong success and some countries have started ambitious vaccination […]

Read More

Will the Vaccines Mess With Our DNA?

 

A friend on an email group I’m on asked my friend and co-author Charley Hooper the following question about the COVID-19 vaccines:

Are you sure that the vaccine won’t mess with our genes?

Charley allowed me to share his answer:

No, I’m not 100% sure. But I’m one minus epsilon (a very small number) sure.

Biological reason:

I’m not an expert in this area. This is from my reading…RNA is a notoriously fragile molecule. Delivering mRNA successfully to the cells inside our bodies and ensuring that enzymes within our cells do not degrade it are key challenges in vaccine development. Chemical modifications during the manufacturing process can significantly improve the stability of mRNA vaccines. Encapsulating mRNA in lipid nanoparticles is one way to ensure that a vaccine can successfully enter cells and deliver the mRNA into the cytoplasm. 

mRNA does not linger in our cells for long. Once it has passed its instructions to the protein-making machinery in our cells, enzymes called ribonucleases (RNases) degrade the mRNA. mRNA dies a quick death once in human cells.

It is not possible for mRNA to move into the nucleus of a cell as it lacks the signals that would allow it to enter this compartment. This means that RNA cannot integrate into the DNA of the vaccinated cell. There is no risk of long-term genetic changes with mRNA vaccines.

Clinical reason:

Moderna’s Phase 3 clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine enrolled 30,420. We haven’t seen any genetic damage to these participants. Ditto for Pfizer and BioNTech’s trial that enrolled 43,448 participants. How have we not seen any genetic damage in over 70,000 closely monitored individuals?

Economic reason:

Why would a company market a vaccine that could mess up the genetics of its customers? I shudder to think of the lawsuits. This goes against everything I’ve learned from spending the last three decades in the pharmaceutical industry.

Genetic reason:

If the vaccines do alter human DNA, what is the result? To make us healthier, stronger, smarter, more beautiful? That would be extremely difficult to accomplish. To make us mutants? If the vaccines do alter our DNA, I think it’s virtually certain that the alterations would be harmful and perhaps fatal. Who other than an extreme environmentalist or a mass murderer would want this? However, these vaccines were developed by drug companies, not mass murderers. There’s no group of people that I know of that had both a motive for such a crime and the ability to perpetrate it.

Insider information reason:

Have we heard of large numbers of employees at Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech avoiding the new vaccines? No.

 

 

 

 

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

Charles Barkley Articulates the Benefit Principle

There are various versions of the benefit principle of taxation. One is the James Buchanan/Knut Wicksell version, which says that to get unanimous agreement for a government expenditure, you need to have people pay an amount in taxes that is less than the benefit they perceive.

That’s not what former NBA player Charles Barkley articulates but nevertheless he does state a reasonable version of the benefit principle.

Barkley said yesterday that NBA, NFL, and NHL players should get the vaccine right away because of the huge taxes they pay. He stated:

As much taxes as these players pay, they deserve some preferential treatment.

When Kenny Smith challenges him by saying “the amount of money you make” and then trails off but is clearly about to say that one’s income shouldn’t be a consideration in when one gets the vaccine. But Barkley stays on message saying, “I said taxes; I didn’t say the amount of money you make.” Kenny’s making the point that those are highly connected but Charles is right to keep it focused on his point. This is something that taxpayers paid for, players in those three leagues pay a lot of tax per person, and, therefore, they should bet preferential treatment.

There are two other reasons to give them preferential treatment.

First, as my Hoover colleague John Cochrane emphasizes, it’s important to get the vaccine early to those who would be superspreaders. The players are virtually all young and many of them have active social lives. So, simply from the externality viewpoint, they should get preferential treatment.

Second, and I think this is a weaker argument, various state governments have dictated the various things we can’t do together. One of the ways left is TV. We hear every day about this or that game that is postponed because of players having tested positive. My own Golden State Warriors won’t be playing tonight against the Phoenix Suns because of “ongoing contact tracing” of the Suns. More games; more entertainment; lower loss from the lockdowns.

Finally, note that if vaccines were allowed to be sold on the market, almost all players would have them by now and, of course, so would other people now in the queue. The slowness of the queue is due to government.

HT2 Tyler Cowen.

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

Noubar Afeyan on Academia, Business, Immigration, and the American Dream

Tyler Cowen has posted an outstanding interview of Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of Moderna, which produces one of the two COVID-19 vaccines approved so far by the Food and Drug Administration. Tyler is at the top of his game, asking really good questions, and you can just see the respect that that creates in Afeyan.

Some highlights follow.

On individualized medicine

We have a program in cancer vaccines. You might say, “What does a cancer vaccine have to do with coronavirus?” The answer is the way we work with cancer vaccines is that we take a patient’s tumor, sequence it, obtain the information around all the different mutations in that tumor, then design de novo — completely nonexistent before — a set of peptides that contain those mutations, make the mRNA for them, and stick them into a lipid nanoparticle, and give it back to that patient in a matter of weeks.

That has been an ongoing — for a couple of years — clinical trial that we’re doing. Well, guess what? For every one of those patients, we’re doing what we did for the virus, over and over and over again. We get DNA sequence. We convert it into the antigenic part. We make it into an RNA. We put it in a particle. In an interesting way, we had interesting precedents that allowed us to move pretty quickly.

Big question I wish Tyler had asked as a follow-on: Do you think the FDA will loosen its reins enough that Moderna and others can deal that way with individual patients without getting permission and doing large-scale tests?

The Academic Scientific Community vs. the Business Scientific Community

Look, the scientific method, the scientific community — it works on advances that are predicated on current and prior advances. Incremental advances are the coin of the realm. It’s not that they’re conservative. It’s just that the process, the communal process of accepting truth as that which can’t be negated, causes you to therefore be, in every which way, questioning everything.

I learned long ago the expression organized skepticism. That’s what science is predicated on. As a result, if you come forward with something that is not fully supported by and connected to the current reality, people don’t know what to do with it. What many academic scientists do is to spend the next 5, 10 years putting the connections in place to make what’s being proposed a natural extension of what existed before.

In industry, we don’t have that need, and the reason Moderna was able to really be the pioneer in the space of establishing a therapeutic platform, even before a vaccine platform, is because for us, the lack of connection between what we were able to do and what had been done before was marginally interesting, but we weren’t trying to publish it.

When you patent something, you don’t have to show that it’s a natural extension of what people did. You just have to describe something that is novel, that is unobvious. In fact, the less connected, the more unobvious, and/or the less connectible.

Note this sentence: “What many academic scientists do is to spend the next 5, 10 years putting the connections in place to make what’s being proposed a natural extension of what existed before.” It reminds me of the old joke about the academic who, observing that a TV works in practice, wants to understand whether it works in theory.

On Immigration and the American Dream

This next is my absolute favorite of the interview.

I also would say that as a country, there’s so many people who have the experience of coming here, that that experience can also be transmitted to people who are born here, for whom the same mindset of being willing to imagine a better . . . If you look, every single person who comes to this country imagines a better future for themselves. That’s my belief. Maybe not every single person — 99 percent.

Imagine if all of us were also born imagining a better future for ourselves. Well, we should be, but we’ve got to work to get that. An immigrant who comes here understands that they’ve got to work to get that. They have to adapt. The problem is, if you’re born here, you may not actually think that you’ve got to work to get that. You might think you’re born into it.

This will be a funny thing to say, and I apologize to anybody that I offend. If we were all Americans by choice, we’d have a better America because Americans by choice, of which I’m one, actually have a stronger commitment to whatever it takes to make America be the place I chose to be, versus not thinking about that as a core responsibility.

That brings up two memories, one old, one relatively recent.

The old memory is that when I came to this country in 1972, at age 21, I had the American dream in mind and I noticed right away that a large swath of the people I ran into in Los Angeles, whether at UCLA or in the city generally, who had grown up in the United States, didn’t.

The more-recent memory is of an interaction I had with a man who was considering running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. I think the conversation happened in 2015, and it was at a Hoover Institution roundtable I had been invited to. I can’t name the person without violating the confidentiality rules.

He made a statement about immigrants that surprised me. He said (and I think I’m getting his words almost word for word), “So many immigrants come here and act right away as if they just arrived at home base after hitting a home run.”

When it was my turn to talk, I said, “Person X, I’m an immigrant and I thought when I got my green card I’d arrived at home base or at least at third base. I was given a list of crimes that, if I committed them, would get me booted out of the country and none of these crimes were ones I planned to commit.”

Then I made the mistake of asking about his record in a previous office he had held. He answered about his record but didn’t address my point about immigration. This man had the attitude that Afeyan attributes to many Americans: Simply by being born here, he seems to think that he’s made the rounds to home base.

I really don’t know what some politicians and some Americans expect out of us immigrants.

 

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More

There are no non-Bayesians in a foxhole

There is some level of danger that pushes even the most stubborn government bureaucracies to start acting semi-rationally. Tyler Cowen has a brilliant new post that clearly demonstrates that the US has not reached that point.

But things are much worse in the UK, due to a new variant of Covid-19 that spreads much more rapidly. As a result, the UK has switched to the “first dose first” approach, which is very likely to save lives.  And even if it doesn’t, the approach can be reversed at a far smaller cost than if the alternative view is correct.

The UK is already beginning to make substantial progress in vaccinating old people, who are of course much more likely to die of Covid-19:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said 23% of all over-80s in England have now been given a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, meaning some of the most vulnerable patients are getting the protection they need.

Given the new variant of Covid, the British are engaged in a race against the clock.

If the new variant becomes widespread in America before the vaccine is distributed, the entire country could end up being hit as hard as places like New Jersey, meaning several hundred thousand extra (unnecessary) deaths.  Let’s hope our public health authorities come to their senses before its too late.

PS.  For those who like numbers, here’s the sort of decision we face:

Likelihood of one dose first being the wrong approach:  Very low, say 10%.  Cost of adopting it if it is the wrong approach:  Relatively low, say a few thousand deaths.

Likelihood of two doses first being the wrong approach:  Very high, say 90%.  Cost of adopting it if it is the wrong approach:  Relatively high, say tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths.

You do the math.

(0 COMMENTS)

Read More