Naturally, all (or most) of us are hoping for a so-called V-shaped economic recovery. In other words, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was a sudden shock to the economy and our lives more generally, we hope that things will bounce back just as fast, or nearly so.
As I wrote this post, I realized that there’s something ironic about the “V” in “V-Shaped:” Our ability to recover hinges tremendously on how successful we are at protecting ourselves against Covid-19 when a vaccine becomes available. That is, our vaccination efforts will shape our recovery, for better or for worse. Hence, my use of the term “Vaccine-Shaped.”
Much has been written about how poorly the USA has managed the Covid-19 pandemic to date. I haven’t seen any compelling evidence to suggest that we won’t execute our vaccination efforts just as poorly. Some food for thought:
(1) Remember how difficult it was (and still is) to get personal protective equipment (PPE)? With little or no help being offered by the federal government, the states ended up competing against one another for masks and other PPE. What makes anyone think we won’t handle the distribution of a vaccine just as poorly?
(2) Remember how bad the educational efforts were (and still are)? “Don’t wear masks.” “Wear masks.” Let the scientists (e.g. CDC, Dr. Fauci) speak. Don’t let them speak. And so on. Americans understandably became confused, frustrated and frazzled. It’s not hard to envision a similar scenario once a vaccine becomes available. “It’s going to be free.” “It’s going to cost $200.” “You only need one shot.” “You may need two shots.” And so on.
(3) When we do have a vaccine ready, how do we decide who gets it first? In an ideal world, I would want to see lower-income individuals and health care workers be at the front of the line, among others. Based on how things have gone to date, I’m not confident it will work that way. I’m not necessarily saying it will be the Lord of the Flies, but I expect plenty of chaos.
(4) It’s one thing to have a vaccine ready in a year –that would be an unprecedented accomplishment. But to have one ready before the presidential election, even if only for emergency use, seems to me to be asking for trouble in the form of manufacturing and distribution mishaps, unanticipated adverse reactions, and so on. Again, based on how we’ve (mis)managed the pandemic so far, I see no reason to think we won’t run into problems.
(4) Some scientists have estimated that 60%-70% of the population would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to achieve herd immunity. The truth is that we simply don’t know. But if the influenza vaccine is any indication, the road to herd immunity could be a prolonged one. The CDC estimates that less than half of Americans 18 years of age and older got the flu vaccine in the 2018-2019 season. And that’s the flu, a much less politicized and demonized entity.
(5) What if the first vaccine to become available only provides immunity for one or two months? And how will you know when your immunity “window” has closed? You won’t. Meanwhile, the rest of the population is waiting for their first shot of the vaccine, and so on.
(6) While we wait for an effective Covid-19 vaccine, we need effective treatments. Treatments are required to save lives now, and once we have a vaccine. Both are required for a quick recovery. That’s no minor feat.
The bottom line is that much of our economy is socially driven. Only when Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19 will they feel comfortable resuming their social lives as they were before. Thus, if we want a “V-shaped” economic recovery, we can’t afford to mess up our vaccination efforts.