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Investment Insights, Inc.

The Economic Cost of Vaccine Reluctance

A friend came buy to drop off a camera lens he had borrowed. He knocked and left the lens on the door step. I came to the door as he was heading down the walk. He was masked and obviously intent on staying at the now roughly 30 feet away that he had walked from the door.

“Why don’t you just get vaccinated?” I asked him.

“Because some people die from the vaccines and I’ve head that you can still get covid anyway even if you’re vaccinated so it doesn’t do any good.”

Some people just aren’t very good at assessing risk.

Breakthrough infections – the term used for when those fully vaccinated get the disease anyway – are extremely rare. How rare? So far 130 million Americans have been fully vaccinated and there have been 10,000 recorded breakthrough infections. That works out to a 0.0076% chance of getting a breakthrough infection. Not impossible, but that’s a pretty tiny percentage. And it’s not nearly as tiny as the number of deaths attributed to the vaccine. There, instead of 10,000 cases we’re talking less than 10 so the percentage goes to something like 0.0000009%. How rare is this? Consider than the average number of people hit by lightening every year is 49, which is at least 5 times the number of deaths from Covid vaccinations.

But 600,000 Americans have died from Covid. We don’t even need to do percentages here, or any actual arithmetic. 600,000 is far more than 10.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, there is potentially a big cost from decisions made like my friend and others. Maybe, like me, you are fully vaccinated, and maybe, like me, you know people that are antivax. If you do, then, like me, you have also heard all the myriad reasons that the vaccine reluctant don’t want to get vaccinated. Some of those reasons aren’t crazy, just ill informed. And some are just plain crazy. But all of them are threatening the economic well being of the United States.

As I write this in early June, 60 plus % of Americans have received at least one shot. Infection rates are crashing, which somehow the anti-vax crowd ignores or comes up with novel explanations for. The idea that the vaccine might actually be reducing infection rates never enters their thinking.

OK, I guess I’ll stop shaking my head for a moment at least and continue on to the costs of this astonishing vaccine resistance.

There is a hope that the virus will become less lethal over time, and that in time we humans will have been exposed enough to the virus that we will reach a state of herd immunity in which so many humans have anti-bodies to fight the disease that the disease can’t find enough openings to spread and propagate. The problem is, no one seems to know exactly what percent of the population needs to have some degree of personal immunity before we as a people can reach herd immunity.

And our enemy, the virus, is not waiting for that to happen, as it continues to mutate into other even more contagious versions of itself.

So far our vaccines have proved to be resistant to these new strains of the coronavirus. But here we come to the vaccine reluctants, because it is among this population that the virus can find new vectors to spread, and new fertile ground for mutations. In the United States it is just possible that we have enough vax-resistant people that we will never reach herd immunity. And it is certainly true that if we do reach herd immunity, it will have taken longer than it could have because of the vaccine reluctant among us.

And all this means that there is a possibility that the US will fall behind other countries with greater vaccine acceptance. The economic cost of falling behind our economic competitors because we were more vaccine resistant, is potentially trillions of dollars.

The above is more or less the worst case. But that may not happen. What is certain though, is that we are returning to normalcy slower than we could have and that still has a very large cost. Maybe not trillions but potentially hundreds of billions.

Numbers this large, and talk about something called “the economy” can make this all seem pretty abstract and impersonal. Let me make this clear. It effects all of us individually. When the economy is not fulfilling its potential, the government is not collecting as much taxes as it could, creating larger than necessary deficits which in turn hinder the government’s ability to provide services in the future. And all that is even if you are not one of those who’s job was impacted but the ongoing pandemic.

The vaccine reluctant think they have a right to refuse the vaccine, and technically they do, at least for now. But the US Supreme Court has previously ruled, over 100 years ago, that states can require vaccinations.

There is a very long conversation in this country between individual rights and the common good. The conversation goes back to the founding of the country and before, and there has never been a perfect solution and I highly doubt one will ever be found.

Many of the vaccine reluctant that I have encountered self identify as Libertarians. The Libertarian take on the balance between individual rights and the common good is that the individual should be free to pursue happiness in any way that does not harm others. So speeding laws are OK because you might kill someone else by driving too fast.

By this code, there is absolutely no justification for Libertarians to refuse to get vaccinated, because their refusal means they are allowing themselves to become carriers of a lethal virus. We as a nation, and as a species, are fighting a war against a deadly disease. Allowing your body to be vulnerable to this disease and thereby become a carrier is no different than giving aid and comfort to any enemy in a time of war – and the definition of that is treason.

The cost of vaccine reluctance is not isolated to those who choose to accept the risk of getting sick over getting vaccinated because every vaccine reluctant person increases and prolongs the detrimental effects of this virus for all of us.

Hal Masover is a Chartered ReOrement Planning Counselor and a registered representaOve. His firm, Investment Insights, Inc is at 508 N 2nd Street, Suite 203, Fairfield, IA 52556. SecuriOes offered through, Cambridge Investment Research, Inc, a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor RepresentaOve, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Investment Insights, Inc & Cambridge are not affiliated. Comments and quesOons can be sent to These are the opinions of Hal Masover and not necessarily those of Cambridge, are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or acted upon as individualized investment advice. Investing involves risk. Depending on the types of investments, there may be varying degrees of risk. Investors should be prepared to bear loss, including total loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices mentioned are unmanaged and cannot be invested in directly

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