The COVID confidence man
By Scott Sumner
A few months back, Alex Tabarrok criticized the delay in approving the new vaccines:
I am getting very angry at people like Anthony Fauci who say that FDA delay is necessary or useful to alleviate vaccine hesitancy.
Fauci told Fox News that the FDA “really scrutinises the data very carefully to guarantee to the American public that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine. I think if we did any less, we would add to the already existing hesitancy on the part of many people because … they’re concerned that we went too quickly.”
The WSJ says much the same thing just with a slightly different flavor:
…this regulatory rigmarole is essentially a placebo to reassure the public it will be safe to get inoculated.
The ‘we must delay to allay’ argument is deadly and wrong.
Now Fauci is at it again, this time with first-dose-first:
“We’re telling people [two shots] is what you should do … and then we say, ‘Oops, we changed our mind’?” Fauci said. “I think that would be a messaging challenge, to say the least.”
Fauci said he spoke on Monday with health officials in the United Kingdom, who have opted to delay second doses to maximize giving more people shots more quickly. He said that although he understands the strategy, it wouldn’t make sense in America. “We both agreed that both of our approaches were quite reasonable,” Fauci said.
So the “experts” have decided that the risk of the public eventually figuring out that they were lied to, and that thousands died needlessly, is smaller than the risk that the public will lose faith in the experts if they change their minds? Yes, I guess that’s possible. But what sort of training in social psychology does Fauci have that would allow him to make that sort of life and death decision?
And if first-dose-first is not reasonable for the US, then why is it reasonable for the UK?
Fauci said the science doesn’t support delaying a second dose for those vaccines, citing research that a two-shot regimen creates enough protection to help fend off variants of the coronavirus that are more transmissible, whereas a single shot could leave Americans at risk from variants such as the one first detected in South Africa.
Then why does Fauci approve of the J&J vaccine, which is one dose? You might argue that J&J was tested as one dose, but that doesn’t answer the question. AFAIK, the test of J&J vaccine did not show any more efficacy against the South African strain than did one dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
Fauci acknowledged that the United States repeatedly has shifted strategy during the pandemic — including his own reversal on whether Americans should wear face coverings — but said that the stakes are higher when it comes to communicating about vaccines.
“People are very skeptical on vaccines, particularly when the government is involved,” he said.
But if the stakes are higher, isn’t that even more reason to get it right?
Personally, I believe that the public would have more respect for experts if they didn’t repeatedly lie to us for our own good, if they honestly told us exactly what they believed.
I was just a boy when I first heard the term ‘confidence man’. The phrase sounded sort of good—a person who inspires confidence. Later I learned that it was equivalent to con man. Thus confidence is a two-edged sword, something that can help you or hurt you.
Don’t try to make me confident; act in such a way that I will respect you. That will give me confidence.
Right now, I don’t have much confidence.