Monday, March 15, 2021

The Coming Need To Sell The COVID-19 Vaccines

Dr. Scott Gottlieb recently tweeted something of great import about the COVID-19 vaccines:

As we move from scarcity to plenty, we also move to more-averse age groups. A large cohort of people either refuse to get the vaccine at all (about 15% in recent polls) or will only if forced (7-9%):

This is not encouraging, especially considering there is a very large group that will not be able to get a vaccine for many months: children. As of February, Moderna is only testing their vaccines on children from 12-17, with the trial concluding "around midyear 2021", followed by a second trial of children aged 6 months to 11 years. Given children 17 years and younger amount to 22% of the US population, if you combine that with the roughly (and optimistically) 20% who refuse to take the vaccine under any circumstances, you're left with only 60% who will take the vaccine — far below the 70% needed for herd immunity (at a bare minimum). We had better hope a lot of those people get immunity somehow.

This sales job is not helped by the CDC's message that, even after vaccination, we will still have to mask and keep away from other people (emboldening mine).

"Currently, we do not have enough data to be able to say with confidence that the vaccines can prevent transmission," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said last month. "So even if vaccinated, you may still be able to spread the virus to vulnerable people," he continued, and therefore you should continue to wear a mask and socially distance. Don't go back to normal, he advised, even after you've gotten the shot that is supposed to put things back to normal. In fact, we may still be in masks in 2022, Fauci added a few weeks later. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), expected to be released this week, strikes similar notes.

This is not how we should be talking about vaccines and the return to normalcy. However good the intent—and the intent is almost certainly to discourage reckless behavior that could undermine the vaccines' impact on disease transmission—the effect is discouraging and detrimental. Insofar as it might dissuade some people from getting vaccinated, advice like Fauci's might even be dangerous.

Getting vaccinated is a step — the biggest step — toward normalcy. It's too bad the CDC doesn't appear to see it that way.


  1. This is why the federal government needs to pay people to get the COVID vaccine... if necessary, this could be framed as a conditional stimulus. ("Everyone has a price," right?)

    1. The politics of such a move would be difficult, but ... I can't argue with the logic.

    2. FWIW, the trial clinic that gave me the J&J shot is paying me $175 per visit. That's nuts. I should be paying them.