Monday, November 19, 2012

Economics of the Flu Vaccine

This is the first year I've ever gotten a flu shot. This is the first year I've ever gotten something like the flu (that eventually or was always pneumonia). I have been convinced, perhaps expectantly to get a flu shot every year for now on. How you might ask?

The classic explanation for government subsidy and distribution of vaccines is externalities. We often hear the word associated with negative externalities like pollution, unemployment, or even panhandling. However there can also be things that have positive spillovers, like vaccines. But externalities is only part of the story. There are two other issues two information and temporal. Here's the information needed:

1) Cost: Most people can get it for free
2) Pain: Be a wimp like me and try the new needle so small you can't even see it and it literally cannot hurt you
3) Hassle: Bring your phone and do something useful on it (even if calling your mom is all you can)
4) Likelihood of making a difference: What I take away from this experience is that if I get 50 more flu shots and it only makes a difference for 1 person 1 time it's worth it. I've felt like crap for 7 days, I'll do a lot to keep that from happening again.

And that brings us to the other issue, the temporal. All the "hard" work of getting a flu shot doesn't benefit you immediately if at all. It benefits some future version of you. The key is to get that present you to help the future you. How do you do it? Write a blog post about how much you want a flu shot when your sick, that way when you get better you'll remember this YOU'RE ONLY GETTING OLDER AND SICKER.


  1. I'm no conspiracy theorist, and I am 100% certain that correlation does not imply causation ... but you've never gotten the flu or a flu shot in your life. Then, you get a flu shot, and a few short months later, you follow it up with the flu.

  2. Mae's also never smiled before the flu shot. It's official!

    More flu shots = more baby smiles


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