Sunday, January 3, 2021

Must Read: Tyler Cowen on VA vaccinations

This is Joseph

Tyler Cowen is (correctly) upset about the rate of vaccination in Virgina:

Total vaccine doses distributed: 388,100

Total vaccine doses administered: 75,288

 This is very slow. Now maybe it will pick up in the New Year. But this is not a reassuring pace of vaccination. At this point I am starting to wonder about Erik Loomis' proposal just to send the vaccines into the medical system and let it sort them out. I still think it is wrong move, but the 2019/2020 flu season had about the same percentage of adults vaccinated at 2018/2019 (52%) and that included children. 

Now, it is 100% true that sending vaccines through the medical system will increase medical inequality, no doubts about it. But we are behind schedule on vaccine production and even more behind on giving these vaccines -- yes, we are seeing this poor rate of utilization under unexpectedly tight supply constraints not as a consequence of a surplus. At some point, I think the increase in epidemic intensity to enforce a complex queuing system might to more harm to vulnerable populations. I loathe using a price mechanism for a vaccine, but I also am in utter shock at the failure to build up public health resources to implement the vaccines. The decision to consider private options happened when investment in resources to vaccinate was neglected. 

I think the next few weeks are critical to see if state governments can step up to the challenge. Israel vaccinated 10% of it's population in 2 weeks using the Pfizer vaccine (the one with tough cold chain) and while it has advantages, they are not different than those of New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles -- none of whom look anything like that. California is at 1.04% of the population today and Virginia is at 1.05%. Imagine if they gave out 80% of the vaccines instead of 20%? 

Comparing countries is just depressing; the overall rate for the US is currently 1.30%. Canada is 0.27% (not a typo), Portugal 0.26%, Poland 0.10% and France 0%. Even the UK, which authorized the Astra-Zeneca vaccine to speed up vaccinations, is at 1.47%. If B.1.1.7 is as bad as expected, we might regret not being more prepared, given we are running out of capacity in morgues already. 

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