Re: poly: Immunization (was: libertarianism)

From: Perry E. Metzger <>
Date: Wed Feb 18 1998 - 14:55:46 PST

Robin Hanson writes:
> Perry writes:
> >1) I can fully protect my entire family by immunizing them, after
> > which I no longer need care about what other people do.
> And you can live in a steel house, so you no longer care if your
> neighbor's house is a fire hazard. You can wear bullet proof vests,
> and care less about stray gunfire.

Both of these are substantially less effective defenses against harm
than vaccination.

> >As I noted, vaccination has been around a long time, and we do know
> >what statistics were like pre-intervention, and I believe they were
> >already very high. The primary cited reason for implementing the
> >programs was to protect "the poor" from disease, btw, and not to
> >protect the mass of the public.
> The poor is exactly where the externality effect should cause the most
> problem; when vaccines are relatively cheap the personal incentives
> to vaccinate are enough for the better off.

Which problem, exactly, are you refering to here? That is to say, what
is the problem to me if *you* are unvaccinated provided that I am?

We have to be careful here to keep in mind *precisely* what problem
we are trying to solve while discussing this issue. I can understand
the notion that there might be "public health" issues involved in the
prevention of untreatable, unvaccinatable diseases in which, for
instance, quarantines might be the only possible method for stopping
the spread of the illness. However, what is the problem we are trying
to solve here in the "public vaccination program" case?

> >> smaller the infected population, the less frequently new flus will arise.
> >
> >Actually, this is untrue for influenza. New strains typically arise in
> >domestic animals, not in humans, and it would be nearly impossible to
> >immunize all the world's wildlife, etc.
> When I read that most flus come from asian pig & chicken farmers, it
> occured to me that it's probably worth much more to the rest of the
> world than it would cost those farmers to limit their livestock
> contact enough to drastically reduce the rates of flu evolution.
> Seems a clear contractual failure.

Perhaps, but I am not certain that there is a reasonable solution here
-- either governmentally or non-governmentally based.

Received on Wed Feb 18 22:59:37 1998

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