[extropy-chat] Are vaccinations useless?

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Mon Mar 13 15:24:31 UTC 2006

At 07:25 AM 3/11/2006 -0500, Robin wrote:
>At 03:15 AM 3/11/2006, Hal Finney wrote:
> > > I believe it is up to the proponent of a new hypothesis to show that
> > > their idea covers the relevant observations before the new hypothesis
> > > is worth much scrutiny from others. ...
> >
> >Consider the question of whether advances in health and longevity are
> >largely due or are not due to medicine.  Should we use the common-sense
> >answer of yes, and demand that someone who argues otherwise take up
> >the burden of proof?  Or should we use the accepted answer in the public
> >health field of no, and demand that proponents of medicine's effectiveness
> >prove it?
>To elaborate, the answer of no is not only the accepted answer in public
>health, it is also the accepted answer in the economics of health, and in the
>sociology of health.   It is only some in medicine who say otherwise.
>I am not a lone crank trying to prove an odd hypothesis - I am just a bearer
>of news about the academic consensus.

I have known Robin for a long time and I don't doubt his statement about 
the academic consensus, but I have a hard time squaring "the consensus" 
with simple first order models, especially economic models.

Smallpox used to infect virtually everyone.  Depending on the variety it 
killed 10-35% of those infected.  If the economic cost of feeding, clothing 
and housing a child up to an average age of being infected (say 5 years) 
was a dollar a day and the cost of vaccination was 10 dollars (which seems 
high), then the average saving per vaccination was at least 364x1x5x0.1/10 
or at least 18 to one.

Now obviously it isn't economically sensible to vaccinate against diseases 
that have much lower death rates or infect a much smaller segment of the 
population.  And it could be noted that measles and chicken pox vaccines 
were developed *long* after smallpox vaccine perhaps for this very reason 
(the rising cost of raising children).

But consider animal production.  An awful lot of vaccines go into animal 
production.  That's a very competitive business.  It seems likely that 
vaccines are cost effective or producers would not use them.

What am I missing that the academics see?


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