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Herd Immunity: Saving Lives and Saving the Economy at the Same Time

Summary:
Absent a highly effective vaccine or some other cure, only two policy questions are relevant: how quickly should we reach herd immunity and whom should we protect during that period? The answers are obvious. We should achieve herd immunity as quickly as is prudent, while protecting the vulnerable, including the elderly, sick, and frail. Let the young and healthy become infected in the natural course of their lives to help create a protective layer around the old and sick. The first step is reopening schools and businesses. No one wants to become infected with the novel coronavirus. But those who do can know that their private cost confers a public benefit, moving us one step closer to herd immunity. The good news is that we might already be close to herd

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Herd Immunity: Saving Lives and Saving the Economy at the Same Time

Absent a highly effective vaccine or some other cure, only two policy questions are relevant: how quickly should we reach herd immunity and whom should we protect during that period? The answers are obvious. We should achieve herd immunity as quickly as is prudent, while protecting the vulnerable, including the elderly, sick, and frail. Let the young and healthy become infected in the natural course of their lives to help create a protective layer around the old and sick. The first step is reopening schools and businesses.

No one wants to become infected with the novel coronavirus. But those who do can know that their private cost confers a public benefit, moving us one step closer to herd immunity. The good news is that we might already be close to herd immunity.

This is from David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper, “Herd Immunity: Saving Lives and Saving the Economy at the Same Time,” Brief Analysis No. 138, Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research, July 20.

Read the whole thing: it’s only 2 pages long.

Charley and I finished the piece about 10 days ago. Would I write it somewhat differently today? I would. I found this post by EconLog co-blogger Scott Sumner, published 2 days ago, persuasive.

David Henderson
David Henderson is a British economist. He was the Head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the OECD in 1984–1992. Before that he worked as an academic economist in Britain, first at Oxford (Fellow of Lincoln College) and later at University College London (Professor of Economics, 1975–1983); as a British civil servant (first as an Economic Advisor in HM Treasury, and later as Chief Economist in the Ministry of Aviation); and as a staff member of the World Bank (1969–1975). In 1985 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, which were published in the book Innocence and Design: The Influence of Economic Ideas on Policy (Blackwell, 1986).

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