Status Quo Bias And Vaccine Supplies

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Here is a simple thought experiment on the use of scarce vaccine supplies.

Suppose that we had tested the Pfizer/Moderna  (PFE, MRNA) vaccines with one dose per person and discovered that they were 85% effective at preventing COVID-19. However, due to an administrative error, we gave some people two doses, and when we analyzed the data it turned out that a two-dose regimen was 95% effective at preventing COVID-19.

Only 200 million doses of vaccine will be available over the next six months.

Under these circumstances, the idea that we should switch from our initial vaccination plan of one dose per person to two doses would be regarded as insane. It is clearly better to give 200 million people 85% protection than it is to give 100 million people 95% protection.

Yet today, many people believe that we should vaccinate half as many people using two doses per person, simply because this was our initial plan. This certainly seems like an irrational framing effect, or a status quo bias of some kind, or hidebound, bureaucratic thinking, and it seems likely to lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and prolong our social and economic misery by months.

Come on people! Let’s think outside the box.

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