JThe longer the corona pandemic lasts, the clearer it becomes that there are two failures in crisis management that push the light at the end of the tunnel further into the distance. On the one hand, there does not seem to be a professional awareness of how to deal sensibly with risks. Again and again, this leads to “playing it safe” and thus delays in combating corona. On the other hand, the crisis managers are not prepared to take greater personal risk – that is, to take on more responsibility and also to trust the citizens with more personal responsibility. Both are once again clear from the current vaccination ban for the active ingredient from Astra-Zeneca.
That people are irrationally risk averse is not news. Economic researchers decorated with Nobel Prizes have long preached that intellectual dispositions that have arisen over millennia make life unnecessarily difficult for people: the average citizen prefers to pocket a small amount of money than to speculate on a disproportionately higher but uncertain profit. The calculated “expected value” for the profit in the second variant would be significantly greater. Risk aversion becomes visible on the stock market when investors panic as soon as they lose some money, while they are hardly happy about the same high profit. People also rate individual negative messages excessively. This selective perception prevents the situation from being viewed in a balanced manner and with some distance.
What does this have to do with the vaccination freeze? Unfortunately, politicians are only human and cannot free themselves from risk aversion. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) responded to the warning from the Paul Ehrlich Institute experts that there were 1.6 million people vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine in Germany seven cases of cerebral vein thrombosis, three of which were fatal and the Federal Chancellery with an immediate suspension of vaccinations.
Spahn should have decided differently
It may be understandable that the medical professionals recommend such a procedure, after all, it is their job to eliminate any danger associated with the vaccine. In an emergency like this, however, the Minister of Health does not have to adhere to it – he could at least have had further vaccinations with reservations. Because a reasonable risk assessment includes not only looking selectively at individual victims, but also making the counter-calculation: the bottom line is how many people would be saved by uninterrupted vaccination – even if tragically individual people die from the side effects who would otherwise have survived ? Simulation calculations from the United States show how much speed is required when it comes to vaccinations. They suggest that vaccination stops – at least for a certain length of time – claim more victims than the possible side effects.
The Minister of Health should be guided by this bill and also communicate it publicly. In addition, unlike the scientists, he has to weigh up whether the vaccination ban could finally make Astra-Zeneca vaccine a slacker, even if it turns out that the thrombosis had nothing to do with the vaccination.
Of course, with a decision in favor of vaccinations and against the advice of the scientists, Spahn would have personally taken a serious risk. Every new death after a vaccination would have been blamed on the politician, who was already counted. But that is exactly what politicians are chosen for: they have to make delicate decisions and answer for them. The vaccination campaign must only be about the common good, not about the political careers of individuals.
Volunteers should be able to get vaccinated
It speaks volumes that no consideration has even been given to making the Astra Zeneca vaccine available to well-informed volunteers who wish to be immunized at their own risk. This step would make it possible for the individual to weigh up individual risks in the first place. To relieve people of this risk is not a mild gift from politics, but a form of paternalism.
The great aversion to risk would not be so noticeable at the moment if it had not become the new normal state in the crisis: The approval of vaccines and corona tests, the associated liability issues, strict compliance with the vaccination ordinance, the involvement of family doctors – always had the greatest possible security takes precedence over pragmatic action. The end result is excessive caution, which – it must be said so clearly – is likely to cost lives.
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