Investors frequently try to estimate when the economy will broadly be free to recover from the current pandemic. I certainly do so whenever I don my investor hat 🎩, which is much of the time.

Ultimately, the answer to the recovery question hinges on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Which brings us to vaccination scenarios.

The future is unknowable, of course. “There are no facts about the future.” (Except that one.) Still, I try to imagine how vaccination efforts might play out, both in the US and globally. To date, none of my imagined scenarios have unfolded smoothly. 😨

Below, I’ve attempted to walk you through one of my scenarios. (This particular one is pretty mild. Others entailed plenty of malfeasance and general chaos.) I hope it gets you thinking. Feel free to share your thoughts. 🤔

The circumstances:

  1. The government announces that the first Covid-19 vaccine is available and is free ($0) to anyone who wants it.
  2. Based on clinical studies, the vaccine manufacturer says that it will provide immunity for an average of 6 months. Being an average, this means that some people will be protected for more than 6 months and others, less.
  3. The only way you will know for certain if your immunity has worn off sufficiently to put you at risk of infection is if you test positive for Covid-19.
  4. There is (still) no treatment that can alleviate or prevent complications of Covid-19 in a broad range of individuals (e.g. as opposed to only the seriously ill). Thus, once your vaccination has worn off, there is no backstop to protect you other than the standard recommendations to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and so forth.

With the above circumstances in mind, let’s imagine how this might unfold for an individual. We’ll call him Nate.

Nate has been working from home while receiving a 20% reduction in salary. He has enough savings to live off for at least a year. Many would consider him to be one of the lucky ones.

Following the announcement that the vaccine is available, Nate takes a couple of weeks to contemplate whether he should get it or not. During this time, it becomes apparent that most schools, businesses (including Nate’s employer) and other types of organizations are reacting similarly to the announcement. For instance, they realize that with no practical way of keeping track of who has or hasn’t been vaccinated, or whose immunity has worn off, things remain largely the same, stuck in limbo. Thus, whereas some business owners have referred to federal stimulus aid such as the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program (PPP) as a “bridge to nowhere,” this first vaccine, with all of its limitations and their implications, is a rope bridge to nowhere. 

Still, Nate thinks it might not be a bad idea to get the vaccine. Based on the clinical data, it seems both safe enough and likely to protect him against Covid-19, though there are of course no guarantees. “But will it really change my life that much?” he asks.

Nate could go on a trip, or splurge on some nice dinners. But then he reminds himself that the airlines, cruise lines, restaurants and so many other businesses are pretty much in the same situation as they were before this first vaccine arrived. Because of this, he may not be able to travel to some destinations at all, or he may need to quarantine upon arrival, for instance. The most likely splurge would be to visit his family, a 2-hour flight away.

Even if Nate does get vaccinated, he’ll still need to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash his hands, and so forth. After all, aside from his family (assuming he tells them), others around him won’t know whether or not he’s been vaccinated, and vice versa. And what if the vaccine doesn’t work as it’s supposed to? 

Having considered all of the above, Nate again asks himself, “Do I want to get vaccinated? Or will I wait?”

What would you do?