Cowen cautioned that many technological advances would doubtlessly improve human welfare but still might not show up in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity statistics. For example, the new plug-and-play vaccine platforms may well result in highly effective vaccines for malaria and HIV, and that would be a huge boon for millions of people living in poor countries, but those benefits would be unlikely to show up U.S. GDP per capita statistics. He also pointed out that the recent significant advances in green energy production are occurring chiefly as a way to avoid the possible catastrophe of man-made climate change. Because climate change is a hidden counterfactual, replacing fossil fuels with solar, wind, and batteries would not necessarily lead people to feel as though their standard of living had risen.
Strain countered that the toll that infectious disease takes on the stunting of talents and skills in poor countries would be greatly ameliorated by rolling out cheap effective vaccines now made possible by messenger RNA technology. Over a longer time horizon, the U.S. and the rest of the world would significantly benefit from efflorescence of invention and entrepreneurship arising in regions whose development is held back by prevalent plagues.
Last week Austria, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland all suspended the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, citing reports of blood clots occurring in a few folks who had been inoculated with it. Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and the Netherlands have now joined them.
“There is no causal effect established or anything like that yet,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin told CNBC, “but as a precautionary move in line with the precautionary principle and in an abundance of caution, our clinical advice was to pause the program whilst the EMA does a review of this.”
The precautionary principle is an ideological construct that eschews risk-benefit evaluations and essentially requires that all new technologies be somehow proved entirely risk-free before they can be used.
The Detroit Free Pressreports that the mayor declined to accept a shipment of 6,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. Why? At a press conference on Tuesday, the mayor asserted, “Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure the residents of the city of Detroit get the best.”
What does the mayor mean by “best”? Duggan stated, “The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 95% effective if you get two shots. Johnson & Johnson is one shot, which is nicer, but it’s about 67% effective.”
Actually, in the United States arm of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) clinical trial, the vaccine’s ability to prevent moderate to severe infection was 72 percent and it is 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease.In addition, the J&J vaccine has been shown to be effective against the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants that are now spreading across the country. And it is likely that many citizens would prefer the convenience of getting a one-and-done J&J shot as opposed to waiting nearly a month to get a second Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech shot.