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Marian Guerinha: Science, Liberty, and Economics in a Pandemic

Marian Guerinha: Science, Liberty, and Economics in a Pandemic

The second anniversary of the epidemic is approaching. As a “black swan”, Covid-19 suddenly appeared and attacked the material foundations of our civilization. At first it seemed that the Corona virus, whose origins were not reliably explained, would resolve automatically as it did with many of its predecessors, but this belief turned out to be naive.

At the same time, work began on vaccines to prevent infection or to reduce the course of the disease quickly. Globally, spending on their preparation has reached tens of billions of dollars. The effects emerged so quickly that some began questioning the use of a vaccine name to refer to these formulations. Vaccines appeared.

Science and Vaccines

A year has passed since the start of mass vaccination in Poland. While it seemed at first glance that it was accompanied by enthusiasm and a widespread belief in its benefits, after a few months it turned out that the problem was not a lack of vaccinations, but rather a lack of vaccinations.

By December 2, 2021, the Corona virus had caused 263 million 894 thousand worldwide. 917 cases and 5 million 245 thousand. 169 deaths. 238 million 228 thousand recovered. 687 people. So it is hard to disagree with the idea that the epidemic has infected the foundations of humanity.

One of the foundations of the civilized development of mankind is the rationality of the Enlightenment, which is connected with the reference to the great opportunities of science. As a rule, there is also no doubt that the development of our civilization was connected, among other things, with the progress in the protection of health, which is largely due to the invention and widespread use of new vaccines.

Thanks to vaccinations, some infectious diseases have been completely eliminated. Not surprisingly, the response to the emergence of the coronavirus was also very quick. In April 2021, the World Health Organization stated that 272 vaccines against Covid-19 were in development worldwide. The research on 88 of them was in the clinical phase, and dozens of preparations were in use. In addition to Western vaccines – Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson – Chinese, Russian and Indian preparations have also been used around the world.

In the European Union alone, more than 900 million doses of vaccines had been delivered by November 2021, and the proportion of adults vaccinated was more than 76%.

However, the use of science in a pandemic is not limited to the invention of the vaccine. Developing vaccines is one thing, and taking advantage of their benefits is another, which – as it turns out – may be hampered by the lack of a scientific approach. The contribution of science in the form of successes in biology, chemistry, virology and medicine contribute to the development of measures against the Corona virus is not enough. Equally important is the scientific approach to research, analysis and interpretation of the results of using these vaccines.

In these matters we must be largely guided by knowledge obtained in the course of systematically conducted scientific research rather than on assumptions, often based on anecdotes or feelings, and sometimes even philosophical and political biases. Without the results of research in this area, one can only make assumptions and formulate hypotheses for further testing. Only systematic scientific research can falsify simplistic judgments based on intuition. Of course, such a search must be repeated at a specific rhythm – only then we get a credible picture of the situation.

and freedom

It seems that the invention and introduction of vaccines against the Corona virus should be the most important step to return to normal. However, while the research and implementation work quickly ended with relative success, the problem is the widespread use of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, virologists agree that only a high degree of vaccination can provide the so-called population resistance, the achievement of which is an indispensable condition for success in the fight against the epidemic. The problem is that in so-called affluent societies, where the availability of vaccines is not an issue, a dilemma arises: universal vaccination versus individual freedom.

From the point of view of viral knowledge, the spread of vaccination is an inevitable outgrowth of the idea of ​​the common good, which in this case is the liberation of humanity from the coronavirus. However, the results of a scientific approach to this problem are called into question on the basis of unsupported beliefs, prejudices, and isolated anecdotal cases. They are at the core of anti-vaccine ideology. One aspect of this ideology is skepticism about the results of vaccine research, and the other side is over-explaining the concept of freedom.

The actions of individuals have always been and will be in groups subject to certain limitations, the purpose of which is to maximize the common good, without which there is no society. We limit freedom by enforcing the obligation to use seat belts, and we prevent drunk driving, by banning the use of cell phones while driving. Many such examples can be given in different areas of life. The questioning of such solutions is an expression of the social immaturity of people who question the foundations and meaning of socially useful norms, and at the same time a threat to the achievement of the common good, which should be the bond of our society.

Vaccine Solidarity

On the European Union website you can find the entry: “Global cooperation and solidarity are essential to successfully fight the Covid-19 pandemic and deliver vaccines, diagnosis and treatment around the world quickly. No one will be safe until we are all safe. That is why the Union is leading European multilateral efforts to ensure that no one is left behind. Health security and sustainable reconstruction around the world depend on it.” The validity of this entry is hard to question, but it remains an unrealistic assumption rather than a collective achievement of humanity.

The economic aspects of the pandemic are endless. I will highlight three of them. Primarily to fund the fight against the pandemic through vaccines. It is easy to make an economic account of the pandemic’s effects on individuals: loss of income from work, medical costs, and potential long-term health disruptions. The result of this law is unambiguous: it is better to spend on prevention, for example vaccinations, than on the treatment of the infected.

The effects of the pandemic also have a macroeconomic dimension: lower growth rates for entire economies, reduction in trade and investment on an international scale. It means a decline in the level of luxury on a global scale.

The world economy is a system of interconnected ships – it includes both rich and more developed countries, and poor countries that are less well-vaccinated. Meanwhile, the world’s prosperity depends on high vaccination rates in both economic classes.

This situation is one type of economic imbalance in relation to the entire global economy. The rich must understand that even if they can achieve population resilience on their own, they will still be vulnerable to an epidemic in poor countries without addressing the problem. Therefore, there is agreement in the international community that the only rational solution is the “financing” of vaccines for less wealthy countries by the richest.

The discovery of omicron, a South African type of coronavirus, has a second economic aspect to vaccine solidarity: low-vaccine countries are more likely to develop a mutation in the virus with increased aggressiveness. In their case, the vaccines developed so far may turn out to be less effective. This is another reason to counter the decline in prosperity in rich countries by solving the epidemic problems in poor countries.

Here is the third economic argument. When limiting the field of analysis to the national context, it should be borne in mind that abandoning the simple procedure of separating potentially healthy people (vaccinated) from those with a higher probability of infection leads to an increase in the number of infections, and thus to A decrease in the effectiveness of institutions and a decrease in the effectiveness of other institutions, such as administrative units, education or culture. Doing so results in loss – reducing the welfare of the entire community in the name of carelessly understood freedom. Therefore, it seems that the solutions presented, for example, in France (entry into restaurants and other public places only with covid-editor certificate) could provide inspiration for the development of the Polish version of the anti-pandemic restrictions.

a. Doctor Hub. Marian Gorinja was in the years 2002 – 2016 Vice President of the University, then Dean of the University of Economics in Poznan. He is currently the President of the Polish Economic Society.

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