poly: The public goods argument and vaccination.

From: Perry E. Metzger <perry@piermont.com>
Date: Wed Feb 18 1998 - 15:36:01 PST

The classical characteristics that a public good requires are
non-excludability and non-rivalrous consumption.

For vaccination rates that are below a fairly high percentage of the
population, the benefits are fully excludable. If I get vaccinated, I
have gained benefit, but no one else has. Above a certain level, of
course, others get the indirect benefit that the stated disease is
unlikely to spread to them because enough people are immune that the
disease is unlikely to become an epidemic. However, that is not a
certain means of protection for the unvaccinated, and in any case, if
too many people choose to "free ride" the benefits go away and again
the benefits become excludable -- that is to say, the "herd immunity
effect" is self correcting from a market perspective.

This leads me to ask "what is the 'public good' issue here?"

I fail to see one. As I also indicated, historical vaccination rates
in the absense of any sort of unnatural market intervention by outside
entities have been very high anyway.

We have neither theoretical reason to believe that this is a public
good and liable to market failure, nor practical observation of
underproduction of the good.

So, yet again, what is the issue here? Is there evidence for a market
failure here?

Received on Wed Feb 18 23:41:38 1998

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