Risky Business: Rolling the Dice

People are terrible at risk assessment. They commonly overestimate the risk based on factors that have nothing to do with the issue. Studies have shown people are more motivated by unreasonable fear or peer pressure to see risk in some activities than by rationality. https://www.cogencyteam.com/news/2018/02/why-are-humans-bad-at-calculating-risk/

This may explain the anti-vaxx phenomenon, particularly the resistance to getting the Covid-19 vaccine, despite overwhelming evidence of the efficacy and benefit of receiving vaccinations and their effect on staying healthy and preventing death.

The reality of the risk is in stark contrast to media outlets — on both sides of the political spectrum — crafting attention-drawing headlines distorting the actual risk.

Less than 0.004% of people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 experienced a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization, according to CDC’s latest data, and less than 0.001% have died from the disease.

Breakthrough cases occur when the virus infects fully vaccinated people, but the severity of the case is mitigated by the vaccine thus reducing the morbidity potential. Put simply, unvaccinated you can get very sick, require hospitalization, and have a higher risk of dying than if you are vaccinated and the risk of death is greatly diminished.

The CDC reported a total of 6,587 breakthrough cases, including 6,239 hospitalizations and 1,263 deaths as of July 26. At that time, more than 163 million people in the US were fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

By comparison, if on the recommendation of a physician one were to take low dose aspirin, as millions of Americans do, studies found some startling information,

 For 50-year-old men, taking a full-sized, 325 mg aspirin every day to prevent heart disease and stroke carries a risk of 10.4 deaths per 100,000 men per year over and above their overall death risk.

This is comparable to the risk of driving a car or working as a firefighter.

Thus the risk associated with the commonly used aspirin, of which there is no cry of outrage over the recommendation for using such medication, is higher than the vaccine, which prevents Covid-19 in the majority of cases or mitigates the severity of the virus in virtually every case.

It calls into question the ability of Americans to have empathy for their fellow Americans. Instead, out of some warped sense of personal choice smoke-screened by unreasonable risk assessment, they demand “rights’ where they should feel a sense of responsibility.

I find it ironic that Americans are so willing to demand the right to bear arms to protect themselves against a potential but unlikely threat, yet when presented with a genuine and often deadly threat, they prefer to wallow in ignorance.

I need a gun to protect myself from something unlikely to happen but have the right to refuse to protect myself and others from something with a much higher probability.

It makes little sense.

If one were to accept the CDC data for the sake of argument—and no one has ever refuted the data with any level of scientific reliability—and if every American who could be vaccinated were, then we would expect 128,000 hospitalizations and 32000 deaths from breakthrough cases.

While any death is one too many, the unvaccinated are being hospitalized and dying at a much higher rate yet the solution to the problem is right in front of them.

But then again, in a country where a significant number believe the Q-Anon myth and that the election was stolen, I suppose we should expect no less. Maybe we should just defer to nature and natural selection.


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