Jay Bhattacharya debates Alberto Giubilini on ‘immunity passports.’ Giubilini supports such documents; Bhattacharya opposes them. Here are two slices from Bhattacharya’s contribution to the debate:
Age is the most important risk factor for severe Covid infection outcomes; there is a thousand-fold difference between the mortality risk faced by the oldest individuals and the youngest after infection. A comprehensive meta-analysis of seroprevalence studies published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization finds that people aged 70 and over have a 95% infection survival rate. In comparison, people under 70 have a 99.95% infection survival rate.
First, the absolute reduction in Covid infection risk for the medically unvaccinated from an immunity passport scheme is likely to be small. The long-run environment in which the immunity passports will be implemented will be one of herd immunity, with a large fraction of the population immune due to natural infection or the vaccine. While immune people may still be asymptomatically infected and pass on the virus to others, the probability of such an event is vanishingly small. So we need only consider the unvaccinated. The virus will not be gone but will be endemic in the population, with case rates substantially lower than we have grown used to this past pandemic year. A random interaction between two unvaccinated people in this endemic equilibrium state will be much less likely to result in disease transmission than during the height of the epidemic since it will be less likely that either is infected. Immunity passports will thus take a small risk and reduce it by a very modest amount. The unvaccinated will still need to be more careful about their exposures during the Covid high season, whether there is a vaccine passport or not.
Second, for many people for whom there is a true medical indication against Covid vaccination, it’s likely that Covid is not the only infectious disease that threatens their health.
Closing any society has serious consequences, but the results were always going to be worse in the developing world. I have been watching the pandemic unfold in India from Stanford University, where I’m a professor of medicine. But for me, it is not just an abstract problem in a faraway country. I was born in Kolkata and still have many family members in India. Some have contracted Covid, while others have suffered from the terrible effects of lockdown.
As soon as the pandemic started, India followed the familiar litany of Covid lockdown policy: masks, a test-and-trace system, school closures and border closures. India was one of the first emerging economies to announce a lockdown and adopted one of the world’s most stringent approaches.
Stay-at-home advice is easier to follow if you have a proper home. But in India’s’ slums, where millions of people live, quarantine is almost impossible — as is the concept of ‘working from home’ or home-schooling.
Then there are migrant labourers, ten million of whom were living in India’s cities before the pandemic. Lockdown meant many of them immediately lost their jobs, livelihoods and homes. Millions started on the long journey back to their villages on foot, not knowing whether they would ever make it home.
Joakim Book writes here with special insight. Two slices:
And it’s true: it’s a dissonance I often struggle with – the joy at the flourishing wonders of the world, coupled with the desperate fear of decline. I can go from pondering last year’s permanent loss of freedom to idealistically proclaim a century of liberty and an age of patronage prospering outside the rotten institutions of government.
Is this the mark of a schizophrenic mind or is there a deeper method at work? Is it possible to hold two thoughts in our heads at once?
I have no doubt that the 2020 government invasions of every aspect of life – monetary, fiscal, regulatory, medical, or whether you may leave your country, your state, or even your house – won’t (fully) roll back. Temporary government policies never do; this is the new normal.
Every country’s political scene is riddled with examples like these: leftover rules, a heavy and incomprehensible tax code, a bloated bureaucracy of incompetent public “servants.” Public choice economists like James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock and those inspired by them have convincingly shown that it isn’t an accident. Once temporary government assistance is introduced, or temporary taxes levied, exiting those policies angers their new benefactors and the established bureaucracies, who by the time the original “emergency” has passed have found new arguments for why the larger government presence is absolutely critical. This is what Robert Higgs means by the size of government ratcheting up: it rapidly increases during an emergency, with few people able to object, and once the emergency is over, some non-trivial portion of the powers remain, never to be abolished. Result? An ever-expanding government.
And what did you expect? Politics is a game that shifts the natural and inherent relationship between human beings. Ordinarily, people in their commercial or civic engagements have strong incentives to harmonize, to avoid conflict, streamline, make efficiency gains, and reach workable consensus; they have skin in the game, bear responsibility and costs for the (negative) outcomes of their actions, and often simply want to get on with their lives. Politicians, involved in their sinister games, disrupt this harmony: they do not have skin in the game (at least not above the minor risk that voters will make them leave that particular office in a few years’ time); they rarely suffer the consequences of their actions; they have little incentive to harmonize or downplay conflicts and routinely exaggerate them for personal grandeur, heightened self-importance, or signal their virtues to voters.
If Mr. Biden wants to encourage Americans to get the shots, he should change his attitude toward masks. Last week he said wearing masks in public is a “patriotic duty.” He continues to do so, even outdoors, even though he is vaccinated and therefore at almost no risk of either contracting the coronavirus or transmitting it to others. Federal mandates remain in place requiring masks in airports, national parks and public transit, among other places.
Think about the messages that sends: If you get vaccinated, you’ll be afforded virtually no relief from the pandemic’s most persistent burden—the social and legal pressure to cover your face in public—which has lingered for more than a year. If you don’t get vaccinated, society will keep trying to protect you from infection by imposing discomfort on everyone. And the authorities, at least at the federal level, seem to be in no hurry for the pandemic to end.
“Early cancer diagnoses plummeted in England during Covid pandemic” – TANSTAFPFC (There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Protection From Covid).