Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Smaller Point About the Russian Vaccine

People are claiming that the incentive for each country to get a propaganda win by developing its vaccine is bad thing and that Russia is acting badly by introducing a vaccine that has not yet been adequately tested. The only argument I can see for that is the idea that if this vaccine flops that will make people less willing to take the next one, but unless the flop kills a lot of people that seems unlikely, especially since the fact that they are bringing it out early is being widely publicized.

The other, and I think more important, side of the argument is that if the vaccine flops that means Russia has wasted some money and if it has serious side effects, they will effects on Russians. If it succeeds, the rest of the world benefits, with Russia having provided a very large scale stage 3 trial at their expense.


Sigis said...

Putin literally is the arch poisoner of this century.

Jon Leonard said...

There's an incentive to get a vaccine quickly (good), and an incentive to be first (less good), and an incentive to lie about it if things don't work well (not so good). From a Bayesian perspective, there's a certain chance that the vaccine works, and a certain conditional chance that the Russian government is lying. (Sort of like how a real estate agent might assure you that a house is perfect for you, before you order an inspector's report.) My point was that given the observable data, the evidence that the vaccine works well is weak at best. I hope it works, but before phase III has been run, confidence is lacking. Is it not sensible to treat this much the same way you'd treat any other promised miracle cure? They sometimes pan out, but usually disappoint.