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Friday, October 13, 2006

Microeconomics quiz of the week II

From ProfessorJournal.com:
This week's Science Journal examines the ethics of flu vaccine rationing. "You have 100 doses of a vaccine against a deadly strain of influenza that is sweeping the country, with no prospect of obtaining more. Standing in line are 100 schoolchildren and 100 elderly people.... Whom do you vaccinate?" Both the value of life and efficacy should be involved in the answer. With regard to the value of life, "a 60-year-old has invested a lot (measured in education and experience) in his life, but has also reaped most of the return. A child has minimal investment. A 20-year-old has great investment but has reaped almost none of the returns. Conclusion: To maximize investment in a life plus years of life left, 13- to 40-year-olds should have first claim on rationed vaccine, explains NIH's Ezekiel Emanuel." A second ethical criterion, however, calls on us to protect those who are most vulnerable. Applying this criterion, if the elderly are most likely to die from a flu pandemic, then they should be vaccinated. Considering efficacy, if school-aged children are more likely to spread influenza, then possibly we could save more elderly by vaccinating children.

QUESTIONS:
1.) The column evaluates the efficacy of different immunization distribution strategies. Is efficacy equivalent to efficiency? Is a strategy that maximizes the efficacy of the distribution equivalent to an "egalitarian" distribution strategy?

2.) What criterion could be used to determine a fair distribution strategy? Identify a distribution strategy that is efficacious but not fair. Identify one that is fair but not efficacious.

3.) Discuss how the expected number of years of continued life and the investment in human capital affect enter into the decision of whether a person should receive a vaccine. Consider (expected number of years of continued life less investment in human capital) as a function of age. What is the shape of this function?




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