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

Robin Hanson rhanson at gmu.edu
Tue Mar 7 03:16:29 UTC 2006

At 05:07 PM 3/6/2006, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
>What is in your opinion the percent contribution of,
>for example, smallpox vaccinations to the currently observed reduction
>of lifetime prevalence of that disease? Please use the historical data
>on lifetime prevalence in e.g. Europe, compare with current numbers
>and tell me how much, if any, of the reduction is attributable to

Start with this study as a reference point:

<http://www.milbank.org/720203.html>Improving Health: Measuring 
Effects of Medical Care, by John P. Bunker, Howard S. Frazier, and 
Frederick Mosteller, Milbank Quarterly, 72(2), 1994.

I don't think the authors are critical enough, in that they seem to 
give medicine the benefit of any doubts about medical 
effectiveness.  But even they can only come up with a few years of 
life to credit to medicine.   So even they must conclude that most 
improvements in lifespan have come from other causes.

For smallpox they credit medicine with giving 3-6 mo. life per person 
on average, which I'd say is too high.
To answer your exact  question I'd guess 1 to 10% of the reduction is 
attributable to vaccination.

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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