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J&J Vaccine Derangement Syndrome?

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Government’s halting of J&J’s vaccine reflects a problem far deeper than the CDC’s and FDA’s seeking guidance from outside ‘experts’ (“Inoculating the Government,” April 21). This far-deeper problem is the obsessive focus on a single risk.

For the past 14 months the fixation was on Covid-19. Ignoring countless other risks – health and non-health – that confront humanity, we treated Covid as the only relevant risk. As such, no cost, no matter how massive, was thought too high to pay for any reduction in Covid risk, no matter how minuscule.

Many public-health officials now fixate on the tiny risk posed by J&J’s vaccine. Fixating on this risk in the same manner as they fixated on the Covid risk spawns this cruel and ironic result: To protect people from this vaccine risk, government officials now subject Americans to a higher risk of suffering from Covid.

Trade-offs are inescapable. We can wisely recognize that we confront multiple risks and, thus, refuse to sacrifice everything for reductions in any one risk. Or we can unwisely do what has become the deranged but common practice since early last year: focus on a single risk as if it’s the only one that we confront and, thus, sacrifice everything to reduce that one risk as close as possible to zero.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030