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Am I anti-social if I get vaccinated now?

by Florian Habermacher1 min read11th Jun 202113 comments


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In the West, or at least in my home country (Switzerland), we have ample vaccine supply, and are - at the moment - controlling Covid more or less fine.

I read of urges to provide vaccines to poor countries where even health workers could not get vaccinated due to lack of vaccines. And I interpret e.g. the WTO talks about a Covid Vaccine patent waiver* as suggesting that there is really an absolute production shortage.

So: is does half-young and healthy me taking the vaccine - while the vulnerable in my country, and most of my peers too, have received the seemingly highly effective vaccine - essentially steal away two doses that might otherwise have ended up at places where they are very urgently needed?

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5 Answers

It's pro-social to get vaccinated now, for the following reasons:


  1. Vaccines that are already delivered to your country are not going to get shipped elsewhere. They have a shelf life and (especially the MRNA ones) don't always travel that well. Vaccine supply to the third world will be shipped from factories, not reclaimed from vaccinations sites now.
  2. Switzerland and other western countries will be more willing to release supply/not buy more when their population is protected. As long as they feel like they have a clear need then they will oppose sending vaccines elsewhere. 

Those two factors make it clear that getting a shot now will more likely decrease (marginally) the time to diversion of significant supply to other places that need it more.

Vaccines that are already delivered to your country are not going to get shipped elsewhere.

This seems to fail to acausal reasoning.

2CellBioGuy2dThe other side is not using that reasoning.

Good points! On 1.: Partly agree. But maybe the world is a bit more dynamic; at least until very recently I think I read from new supply agreements; not sure it was the last one to be in the near future.

On 2.: I think it hinges not least upon the exact interpretation of (say, lower) vaccination numbers by the officials: "more to vaccinate still, let's ensure we have enough doses in the coming months", or "not all seem to be willing to get vaccinated, we won't need so many doses in the next round either". I the latter case, I could see 'my' not-vaccinating ... (read more)

I've followed Zvi's COVID updates and analyses for most of the pandemic, and from that + other readings, my opinion is that you ought to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Whether your country actually transfers those vaccine doses to other countries in need is out of your control, plus seems like a low probability of actually happening in a way / quickly enough for your 2 doses to have any negative impact whatsoever. If spare doses even get transferred at all, which...unfortunately has not happened nearly as much as it should have since vaccines became available.

Edit: My answer is an emphatic No, you are not anti-social if you get vaccinated now.

You are both Swiss citizen and a world citizen. 

There are some diverging interested between the population of Switzerland and the population of the whole world. 

If you cooperate with either of the group agenda of the groups you belong to, that's not antisocial. 

Systematically, I do believe that as an individual it's worth to cooperate with vaccination policy of the country in which you live and that the more people cooperate with the health policy of their home country the more effective the policy will be generally as there's less resources spent on internal friction.

If you live in Australia that has strong border I think you can argue that controlling Covid is more or less fine. In a country in Europe with relatively open border there's no control and the Delta varient multiplying in some corners. 

Stamping out COVID-19 everywhere is a way to prevent further dangerous mutations and for that it's good for Western countries to go to herd immunity.

No. The value of getting vaccinated is unaffected by the ease of access to it. Sending it first to the places where is it hardest to distribute is inefficient: it burns resources that could have been better used. That would not be virtuous, but merely virtue theatre.

Thanks, I could see there being some truth in what you write. On the other hand: the value of the marginal vaccine in the region is very strongly affected by, e.g., (i) the presence of unvaccinated high-risk people, and (ii) the likelihood of having excess hospitalizations that cannot be treated properly and lead to death. Both of these, afaik, exists in some poor countries, but are now very rare/not acutely foreseen in my place.

No. Getting vaccinated is prosocial. Do it ASAP.

In addition to what Willa said, even if the doses you don't take were magically redistributed to a poor country, it might not prevent any more infections than you getting a dose. Many poor countries have been able to control the infection well. And just because Switzerland has things under control now, doesn't mean that will be the case forever (see e.g. the Delta variant).

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Your second argument seems to imply social neutrality, rather than pro- or anti-. It's not strong enough to match the claim above (although it is following a conditional).

1samshap4dFair. Since it's been better answered elsewhere, I withdrew the comment.
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Kudos to you for a) thinking about other people and b) having the courage and wisdom to ask this question.

Very kind Adam; sadly undeserved here! The possibility only struck me once I had a selfish reason to not take a vaccine for now, so we could also just congratulate some half-conscious process for being reasonably successful in trying to save my self-esteem in this particular instance, oopsie ;-).