What will the transitional vaccine path look like?

In several regards segregation will rise, as I explain in my latest Bloomberg column:

The first issue will be how Americans respond over the course of the next few months. Simple logic suggests that when a good vaccine is pending, you should play it much safer. Instead of putting off that vacation indefinitely, just wait until you’re vaccinated, possibly as soon as next summer. In theory that should be an easier adjustment to make, as indicated by what economists call “intertemporal substitution”: waiting for a short time is easier and less costly than waiting for a long time.

Many people will behave in such a rational fashion. But many will instead take more risk. As the prospect of a post-Covid America becomes more vivid, the temptations of going out and socializing now will become more powerful. Once people start thinking about the imminent prospect of partying and fine dining, they might find it harder to resist the idea of just going ahead with it now, despite the higher risk. The giddiness occasioned by a vaccine might have some counterintuitive and negative effects.

Of course, some truly rational and forward-looking people will realize that some of their friends and contacts will behave in this less responsible manner. The more rational among us thus will take greater care to avoid those whom they do not trust, as well as those who have front-line service jobs and thus cannot avoid contact with these less responsible individuals. The rationalists will cocoon themselves more, most of all from strangers and known irrationalists.

Another possibility is that norms of social scorn will weaken, and confusion will reign for a while. Currently, if you shop without a mask or hog the middle of the jogging path in the park, you will be asked to leave or given dirty looks. These are healthy social reactions that help to keep the virus under control.

Will that remain the case once 10% or 20% of the population has been vaccinated?

There is much more at the link.


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