We will suffer if we don’t weigh the risks
Anti-lockdowners were against promoting cost-benefit analysis, now everyone else will suffer from the consequences.
What shot did you get “Has become a recurring question in Europe where many vaccines are now available on the market. After Pfizer / BioNTech became the first company to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, European countries are also using the AstraZeneca push. The Vaccines Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID to be incorporated into vaccine sales once approved, and some European countries have also started using the Chinese Sinovac and Russian Sputnik V.
The AstraZeneca has yet to be approved by the FDA. Still, President Joe Biden has already used it for vaccination diplomacy by first sending four million doses to Mexico and Canada. In Europe, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company’s sting took off after a number of E.U. The Member States have suspended it. A handful of people had developed a rare type of blood clot that may have been linked to the vaccine. In response to these diseases, the European “precautionary principle” has been activated and is in full swing. The potential danger of this vaccine was viewed as more serious than the real possibility that these unvaccinated patients will receive COVID-19.
In a way, European governments have consistently approached the concept of cost-benefit analysis: don’t do any. Most European countries have consistently blocked their economies and the greatest potential for social interactions. France currently has a curfew between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Leaving your home is only permitted with a certificate stating that you have to go to work, to the court or to the doctor. In Germany the rules are similar to those in France. Those who want to evade strict rules by going abroad will often face mandatory testing, quarantine or the country’s non-admission, as Belgium has decided. Whether the infections increased or decreased had little impact on the overall lockdown, as many Europeans haven’t seen bars open, an event that doesn’t run on Zoom, or sometimes their own family members in a year.
The anti-lockdowners lost the argument. During a heated debate on television and in the print media in the spring of 2020, columnists like Peter Hitchens (in the UK) could ask for months whether the drug was actually no worse than the disease. The mere implication that lockdown measures should be approached on a cost-benefit basis has been viewed as outrageous, implying an equation of human life and “economy”. There is no need to condense the chronology of this argument as we all know how it ended. With much of Europe in lockdown – in shock at how suicides, bankruptcies, or domestic violence could increase – it becomes exhausting to argue against the lockdown rules.
Lockdowners got what they wanted. We still spend most of our time in front of endless Zoom calls, and even a handshake is an odd moment of defiance in real life. However, the arguments used by the authorities to implement all these rules have haunted them. Now that Europeans have come to the conclusion that every death is a tragedy and that we must not think about who we are harming, the vaccination debate will be an uphill battle to save everyone. Why get the AstraZeneca vaccine for the common good when there is a chance you could get a rare form of blood clot from it? Yes, you could work out the numbers and compare the potential harm the vaccine will cause versus the likelihood of harm caused by COVID-19 infection. However, we have all been told that the cost-benefit analysis is nasty. So why bother?
Immunization rates are low because bureaucratic institutions try to determine who is most important in society (a contradiction in terms), just as they decide which deals are important enough to stay open. A local newspaper reported in Germany of a nurse crying for throwing away 41 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the government stopped using it. Since then, the European Medicines Agency has declared the vaccine safe, but the uncertainty caused by European governments is likely to increase suspicions about the vaccine. A new YouGov poll shows that 55 percent of German respondents now consider the sting to be unsafe, an increase of 15 points per month. 61 percent of respondents in France also consider the AstraZeneca vaccine to be unsafe.
In the meantime, the old continent is trying to save its failed vaccination program through export bans. In ports and airports, customs officials are stopping exports of European-made vaccines and urging pharmaceutical companies to put Europe first. A strange choice for the E.U., which less than a year ago called for international cooperation to resolve this crisis and spoke out against vaccine nationalism. Now that the World Health Organization is striving for precisely this nationalism in Europe, the circle of hypocrisy is coming full circle. In addition to its politics, the European Union also seems to see that its moral superiority is going nowhere.
The bureaucracy of “every life saved”, which does not allow the risks to be weighed up, has failed. Sweden, a country that has refused to implement many of the toughest lockdown restrictions, has done neither better nor worse than its European counterparts. In the same way, Florida and California have had similar results with their different guidelines. Slow vaccination is not the only disadvantage of the precautionary principle and the rejection of a cost-benefit analysis. In the long run, we will all suffer the consequences if the slightest hint of the onset of a new disease triggers the same reaction we had last year.
Bill Wirtz Commentary on European politics and politics in English, French and German. His work was published in Newsweek, the Washington Examiner, CityAM, Le Monde, Le figaro, and The world.