In two recent studies researchers looked at global attitudes about vaccines. The Lancet, a medical journal, provided a handy summary. They asked people if they agreed that vaccines were safe, important, and effective.
As you can see, your attitude depends on where you live.
Global Vaccine Confidence
Next, we can look at more detail through some of the graphs in a 2018 Global Wellcome Monitor. Reflecting Gallup survey data from more than 140,000 people in 140 countries, the report said that 79 percent believe that vaccines are safe. However, with France at the top of the list, higher income countries display more skepticism.
Below, through the percentage of people who agreed and disagreed, you can see how the perceived safety of vaccines varied by region:
Somewhat different from the safety numbers, the percentages also varied for vaccines’ perceived effectiveness:
Our Bottom Line: Positive Externalities
Annually in the U.S., we average 20,000-40,000 deaths from the flu and 200,000 hospitalizations. However, higher vaccination rates diminish flu mortality. When the vaccination rate rises by one percent, the projected death rate drops by 795 and the number of work hours fall by 14.5 million. Stated a bit differently, 4,065 vaccinations save one life; 1.92 vaccinations save one 8-hour work day
Economists like to explain a vaccine’s benefits by citing its positive externalities. All they really mean though is how what some of us do can benefit all of us. Or, defined more precisely, a positive externality is the benefit received by a third party from a transaction that did not involve that person. It is a ripple that spreads from one person’s private benefit to a community.
At this point, an economist would suggest diminishing vaccines’ monetary and non-monetary cost. And I would leap to the COVID-19 vaccine and hope that our scientists and politicians acted like economists:
My sources and more: Thanks again to Marginal Revolution for another link that grabbed me. From 2019, this vaccine study focused on the seasonal flu while the Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 had a vaccines chapter within a broader study of science and health.