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A modest proposal for vaccine rationing

Summary:
A mid-20s child of a good friend just got the vaccine. Why? He runs a micro-brewery, which his state deemed "essential," because it's "manufacturing." As the WSJ reportsAfter nursing-home residents and health-care workers, the CDC says priority should go to those over age 75 and an expansive list of “frontline essential workers.”,...“essential workers” ... include those ...

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A mid-20s child of a good friend just got the vaccine. Why? He runs a micro-brewery, which his state deemed "essential," because it's "manufacturing." 

As the WSJ reports

After nursing-home residents and health-care workers, the CDC says priority should go to those over age 75 and an expansive list of “frontline essential workers.”,

...“essential workers” ... include those who “work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health. 

media! Economics blogging should count, no? 

What happens when a good is rationed? It is given out politically. 

While many states have already given priority to police and firefighters, teachers’ unions are trying to cut to the front of the line and are blackmailing politicians by refusing to reopen schools. But teachers and child-care workers face less risk than other front-line workers since children are less likely to transmit the coronavirus. 

Other unions are also lobbying for priority. The SEIU lambasted California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s well-advised decision last week to remove “essential” workers such as janitors from the state’s priority guidelines and base eligibility almost solely on age. “It’s like he’s putting us out to die,” griped SEIU United Services Workers West political director Sandra Díaz. 

Industry groups including hotels, airlines and ride-share companies are also lobbying states to have their workers vaccinated first. Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week announced that restaurant, taxi and ride-share drivers would be next in line for vaccines. But why restaurant workers before retail workers or 60-year-olds?

The WSJ suggests rationing based on age. 

The modest proposal: Why not let "industry groups" decide when they want the vaccine based on...hold your breath.. paying a market price to get it?  I wouldn't dare whisper that maybe individual people could be allowed to decide when to get the vaccine -- that is what we're talking about, when, not if --  by deciding when they want to pay for it, as our political climate cannot say out loud that anything should be rationed by willingness to pay. But surely, we can agree that profit-making businesses should be allowed to pay to get their workers vaccinated sooner -- if it's really important to them to do so -- rather than just by who has more political connections to be labeled "essential." 

Fun: Rory Cooper tweets

Fairfax schools says they're going to open up 2 days a week in March for some kids. Wanna know how? They're hiring thousands of unskilled classroom monitors to watch kids watch computer screens because their fully vaccinated teachers won't return to the building. This is nuts.

 

John H. Cochrane
In real life I'm a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. I was formerly a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I'm also an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. I'm not really grumpy by the way!

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