Are China and Russia moving too fast on the coronavirus vaccine?

By Kent R. Kroeger (September 22, 2020)

Images combined from a 3D medical animation, depicting the shape of coronavirus as well as the cross-sectional view. Image shows the major elements including the Spike S protein, HE protein, viral envelope, and helical RNA (Image by https://www.scientificanimations.com; used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)
Image courtesy of Wellcome Trust

A Half-Baked Cost-Benefit Analysis

The following cost-benefit analysis is meant merely as a thought experiment and is not a formal exercise in risk management. However, it is intended to loosely approximate the analyses underlying the decision by the Chinese and Russians governments to accelerate their vaccine developments.

  • All world citizens (7.8 billion) are vaccinated by the early rollout vaccine and at roughly the same time.
  • The early rollout vaccine has a fatality ratio of 0.0033 (i.e., 0.33 percent) — an extremely high ratio that would never be approved by a U.S. or European regulatory body.
  • Calculations of total coronavirus deaths (coronavirus deaths + vaccine deaths) are based on a vaccine effectiveness rates of 40%, 60%, 80%, and 90%. (Note: Most vaccines are between 85 and 95 percent effective, according to OurWorldInData.org)
  • A coronavirus-related estimate of worldwide deaths assumes everyone is either effectively vaccinated or ineffectively vaccinated. Among those ineffectively vaccinated, they will either die from the vaccination or contract the virus. Those with highly-adverse reactions to the vaccine are rolled into the vaccine fatality rate.
  • If no vaccine is ever developed, everyone contracts the virus at roughly the same point in time.
  • This analysis ignores retransmission.

Vaccine Failures in the Past

In history, two vaccines are often cited as examples of how things can go wrong with vaccines rolled out too early or carelessly.

A few afterthoughts

I want to emphasize this essay is not a tirade against vaccines or the value a strict regulatory standards in their development.

I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at: kroeger98@yahoo.com)

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