[extropy-chat] Fwd: Are vaccinations useless? was Re: Failure of low-fat diet

Robin Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Fri Mar 10 23:50:08 UTC 2006

At 05:05 PM 3/10/2006, Rafal Smigrodzki  wrote:
>>On 3/6/06, Robin Hanson <rhanson at gmu.edu> wrote about the impact of
>>vaccination on the prevalence of smallpox:
>> > To answer your exact  question I'd guess 1 to 10% of the reduction is
>> > attributable to vaccination.
>To avoid misunderstanding, are you saying that even without
>vaccinations against smallpox, the lifetime prevalence of that
>particular disease today would be only about 1% to 10% of the lifetime
>prevalence observed in the years 1500 - 1700 in Europe?

Regarding the United States, yes, that is my rough estimate.

>This would
>mean a reduction of an estimated lifetime prevalence from close to 90%
>down to, say 1%, solely from the collateral effects of affluence.
>If you indeed believe this, then you would need to explain how a 100%
>reduction of the prevalence of smallpox occurred in all those
>countries which did not achieve affluence, or even experienced
>worsening of their economic circumstances, including Afganistan, China
>of the Great Leap Forward period, and others.

In response to my saying that the data suggests medicine only contributed
a small fraction to the reduction in mortality over the last few 
centuries, I was
asked what did it.  I said I was very unsure.  When I was asked to at least
give an example of what might be plausible, I offered the 
stress-wealth theory.
I was not intending to offer a grand theory making precise predictions
about the rates of each disease in each nation at each time, and to then
challenge others to present data to prove me wrong.

I don't know the details of smallpox in poor counties - perhaps that is an
area where medicine had a larger than usual effect.

Robin Hanson  rhanson at gmu.edu  http://hanson.gmu.edu
Associate Professor of Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326  FAX: 703-993-2323 

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