Twenty-Seven / Vaccine Passports, Peer Effects, and The Jab

This week's article talks about the time relevance of vaccine passports, followed by book notes from Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. Later, a podcast on what could expedite vaccine production?

Weekly Article

The Time Relevance of Vaccine Passports

The idea of vaccine passports has been around long before COVID-19 disrupted travel and commute. While pre-COVID-19 vaccination certificates are mandatory for a few regions and against select diseases, COVID-19-related vaccine passports will affect the global population in ways yet to unfold. 

To read this article in full, use the link below.

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Book Notes

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

“One of the most infamous incidents in New York City history, for example, was the 1964 stabbing death of a young Queens woman by the name of Kitty Genovese. Genovese was chased by her assailant and attacked three times on the street, over the course of half an hour, as thirty eight of her neighbors watched from their windows. During that time, however, none of the thirty eight witnesses called the police. The case provoked rounds of self recrimination. It became symbolic of the cold and dehumanizing effects of urban life.”

This situation described above is a consequence of the Bystander Effect than "the cold and dehumanizing effects of urban life." The book goes on to describe the bystander effect in plain language.

"When people are in a group, in other words, responsibility for acting is diffused. They assume that someone else will make the call, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem—the seizure like sounds from the other room, the smoke from the door—isn't really a problem."

This phenomenon is one of the peer effects. As the name suggests, the behavior of your peers impacts how you act in a situation. In this case, everyone expected others to call the police. As a result, all waited in anticipation, and none of them did what was required. 

Another related peer effect is the Standing Ovation Problem. We all have either witnessed it or been the initiator of a series of standing ovations while visiting plays, operas, musicals, and even seminars. Remember being in the first row, savor the show you just saw, and standing up to clap? It is most likely that the next few rows stoop up because they saw you and thought that the show must be worth the appreciation, given that you were in the first row and were paying attention. 

Other things such as the shape of the hall, placement of the first row, and the rows behind it also influence the contagiousness of standing ovations. If someone from the back row initiates the standing ovation, their influence on the audience is little as no one can see them. 

Sitting in the back could be advantageous if you could see the person sitting in the front rows. It, otherwise, is not that helpful and you should pay attention to form your own opinion! 

What are we Listening to?

The Jab: Why can't more be made? (The Economist Podcast, 2021)

This podcast goes through all the arguments in favor of and against waiving Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to accelerate the process of vaccine production and distribution to reach the last mile in developing countries. 

Intellectual Property is at the core of the pharmaceutical business models as vaccine development takes time, effort and research. Although most of the funds for the R&D of COVID-19 vaccines came from governments, waiving IP is not the solution to the problem posed ahead of us, even though it might seem so. It is not alone the waiver of IP that will aid start vaccine production in developing countries but a series of intricate processes such as transfer of technology and know-how and exports of raw materials. Further, there is an added risk of contamination of vaccines if not produced cautiously. 

Instead, governments must invest in eliminating bottlenecks in supply chains and public distribution to make their national vaccine drives effective. Countries should not let Defense Production Acts be in the way of vaccine production until we avert this crisis and reach herd immunity. 

To delve deeper into the reasonings, listen to the podcast using this link. If you prefer listening on Apple Podcasts, use this link

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To read my previous blogs, visit my website, What-if Economics.

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