Monday, August 03, 2020

When No Lives Matter Economic Stimulus Could Be Tied To Vaccination Compliance

theatlantic |  Other researchers with whom I spoke echoed many of the same concerns about people’s possible resistance to taking a vaccine, especially if its rollout is botched. To avoid such mistakes, Michele Andrasik and Chris Beyrer, who are among the leaders of the COVID-19 Prevention Network, an initiative by the National Institutes of Health, have already started to test different messages for communicating the benefits of immunization to the public. As Beyrer told me, early results indicate that an emphasis on the importance of the vaccine for revitalizing local communities will be crucial. “A lot of people are feeling very isolated,” he said, “so we are building a lot around solidarity: ‘We are all in this together!’”

Because of the influence of the anti-vaxxer movement, the vaccination rate for measles has dropped so low in certain areas of the country that children from Brooklyn to Santa Monica have contracted the potentially life-threatening disease. It is natural to fear that the same could happen with the coronavirus. But this ignores the fundamental differences between the two diseases. “You can’t just take the anti-vaxxer mentality you see with measles,” Flier told me, “and apply it to the situation we face with COVID.”

But will enough people get it? What happens if, as the CBS poll suggests, one in five Americans refuses to cooperate?

According to the experts I spoke with, the threshold for herd immunity for COVID-19 is likely to fall somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of the population. Since about one in 20 Americans is likely to have suffered from COVID-19 by the time a vaccine becomes available, this means that somewhere between 45 and 65 percent of the American population will need to be vaccinated.

In the case of measles, herd immunity requires an almost total social consensus about the utility of vaccines. As some children have painfully learned, such near unanimity is difficult to sustain. But in the case of COVID-19, anti-vaxxers would have to convert a much larger proportion of Americans in order to have a similarly devastating impact on our collective health. Unless one in three—or even one in two—Americans refuses a vaccine that would allow them to go back out into the world without fear and protect their loved ones from a deadly pandemic, the U.S. is likely to reach herd immunity.

Again and again, the coronavirus has defied expectations about how it is likely to behave. We would therefore be well advised to reckon with the possibility that things could once again break against us. Perhaps this virus is not only uniquely suited to disrupting human civilization but also unexpectedly adept at beating our attempts to immunize people against it.