Friday, October 23, 2009

The Ongoing Saga of H1N1 Vaccinations

The Washington Post reported on the "scramble to parcel out the H1N1 vaccine". This is an interesting article about how people have been affected by the lack of availability of H1N1 vaccine at this point.

Interesting observations:

(1) Some people are making a lot of calls looking for the vaccination. The plan, of course, was to have people getting vaccinated at this time. Plans were made for what the article calls a massive vaccination campaign. The resources that could have been used for such a massive campaign now must wait to be used while other people are handling far more phone calls than expected. Not a very efficient use of resources, although not totally within anyone's control and certainly not by choice. Points to the difficulty of planning under uncertainty--a key facet of economics.

(2) The article also notes "incomplete or conflicting information on state and local government Web sites". This would be viewed as bad in general. It is viewed as particularly disadvantageous from an economics perspective where choices are supposed to be made with full and accurate information. So, even if people want to make rational choices, it is made difficulty by the failure to provide all the information necessary.

(3) A note that confidence in the government's ability to respond is down. This may or may not affect this influenza issue much but is bound to affect how people plan for future infectious disease issues or disasters. If people do not feel they can rely on central planners, they will need to plan for themselves. To a degree, this is fine and probably appropriate. However, if high levels of coordination are needed for future responses and people are acting in their own interests and feel averse toward listening to authorities they do not trust, this could affect the ability to respond efficiently.

(4) The demand for the vaccination is varying around the country--at least in part correlated with the spread of the virus. This demonstrates the basic response to take more preventive steps when the perceived threat is higher.

Just a few examples of basic economic concepts being demonstrated by people's behavior with respect to H1N1 vaccinations.


  1. I find it interesting that we are not discussing cost or price discrimination. Are people in endemic areas that are poor recieving the vaccine. Furthermore, are higher prices being charged in the segment of the areas with lower price elasticity of demand? if so is it economically sound to maintain supply as demanded by public health initiatives in areas that do not support the demand. Renee DNP

  2. Communication with clinics & the public has been terrible. My clinic has been given little or no notification of when or how much vaccine we'll get. We have a general idea of how much about 1 or 2 days before we get it. We usually use it up within 1-2 days of receiving it. This doesn't allow us to prioritize very well. We've had no trouble getting patients to accept the vaccine. Our schools are having widespread absences so it's already hitting the community. The vaccines will be too little, too late to have much of an effect. Dr. Bob (Family Physician in Nebraska)

  3. Both points are interesting. It is interesting to hear from a practitioner how little opportunity there is for prioritization.

    If firms could price discriminate, this would be a perfect opportunity to do so, by region. However, it is hard to price discriminate in this case as there are many opportunities to learn about prices that others are paying and the public level of the information makes price discrimination difficult.

  4. Hi
    So much has been said about the vaccine. In the correctional health setting, we usually offer the influenza vaccine and will now add the H1n1 vaccine to our chronic patients like the diabetics and asthmatics. we have asked them if they are interested in taking the vaccines and we have received a good affirmative response from them, but we are still awaitng the arrival of both vaccines. So much has been said about the H1N1 vaccine, but we still donot have it avaliable. Is this a case of demand for the vaccines exceeding the supply. If we still do not have them avaliable in this type of facility where any type of out break will cause a pandemic, I wonder how the less advantaged communities wo do not have a voice are faring.