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If the Objective is Herd Immunity, on Whom Should it be Built?

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  • Christian Gollier

    (University of Toulouse-Capitole)

Abstract

Assuming that there is no other solution than herd immunity in front of the current pandemic, on which groups of citizens should we build this herd immunity? Given the fact that young people face a mortality rate which is at least a thousand times smaller than people aged 70 years and more, there is a simple rational to build it on these younger generations. The transfer of some mortality risk from the elderly to younger people raises difficult ethical issues. However, none of the familiar moral or operational guidelines (equality of rights, VSL, QALY, ...) that have been used in the Western world over the last century weights the value of young lives 1000 times or more than the lives of the elders. This suggests that Society could offer covid protection to the elders by recommending them to remain confined as long as this herd immunity has not been attained by the younger generations. This would be a potent demonstration of intergenerational solidarity towards the most vulnerable people in our community. The welfare gain of this age-specific deconfinement strategy is huge, as it can reduce the global death toll by more than 80% as compared to a strategy of non-targeted herd immunity.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Gollier, 2020. "If the Objective is Herd Immunity, on Whom Should it be Built?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(4), pages 671-683, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:76:y:2020:i:4:d:10.1007_s10640-020-00504-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s10640-020-00504-2
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    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Health > Herd immunity

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Gollier, 2020. "Cost–benefit analysis of age‐specific deconfinement strategies," Post-Print hal-03156641, HAL.
    2. James K. Hammitt, 2020. "Valuing mortality risk in the time of COVID-19," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 61(2), pages 129-154, October.
    3. Guimarães, Luís, 2021. "Antibody tests: They are more important than we thought," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C).
    4. Sandrine Spaeter, 2021. "How to Reconcile Pandemic Business Interruption Risk With Insurance Coverage," Working Papers of BETA 2021-18, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.

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