I think it's reasonable, yes. Ultimately inaccurate, but reasonable. — Xtrix
To be honest we could leave it there. I've no interest in convincing anyone of the rightness of my beliefs on this, but there may be some interest in exploring our differences further. It's not that I'm unconcerned about being wrong, only that I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to speak directly with experts in the field (through work and ex colleagues), so any concerns I have would be explored there, not on an internet forum. I don't doubt your mastery of the resources you've examined, it's just that's not the sort of conversation I'm interested in having here. That said, however...
it turns out we're in the same field. — Xtrix
...so I'd be interested in your insights from this perspective (being directly what I'm currently working on) and an alternative perspective is never wasted. Turns out psychologists agree about as often as philosophers (which is to say hardly at all). What would you expect to be the most significant long-term impacts on decision-making heuristics from this crisis? Do you think we'll see he unprecedented 'disillusionment' stage (Raphael - if you're not already familiar) of disaster recovery that some are predicting?
So let's restrict the argument only to companies or organizations that mandate vaccines (1) for individuals without acquired immunity and (2) without offering testing/precautions as an alternative. This seems to be the issue. — Xtrix
This then becomes an issue about (a) whether these alternatives, on their own (without vaccines), are as safe and effective at slowing the spread of the virus as (b) the vaccines are, either on their own or in combination with the masks/distancing/testing. — Xtrix
Here I disagree, and I think this is a shift we've seen in risk assessment rhetoric in public discourse with this crisis. We don't normally require that every lower risk strategy be adopted purely on the grounds that it lower in risk. Normal risk assessment heuristics are to compare remaining risks to a (often imagined, rather than calculated) threshold of risk which we deem it unacceptable to breach. It's how we handle the conflict between autonomy of ends and the rights of other affected by choice of means. It shouldn't matter if someone rejects the vaccine because they don't like the colour of the vial, so long as in doing so the risk they pose others is below a threshold of risk we consider acceptable for trivial personal preference. The less trivial that preference, the greater the threshold has to be to justify any mandate. Without this important feature of risk assessment, we end up with a homogeneity of response, which is a) an unnecessary and possibly damaging imposition on freedom, and b) simply bad risk management in the face of uncertainty.
For mandates (in the restricted cases we've already circumscribed) to be acceptable, they'd have to be both more safe and effective than the alternatives and
be so to such an extent that the increased risk from not taking them exceeded this normal threshold.
The trouble is that this threshold is a psychological feature, not a strict number. It's not easy to directly compare. Analysts have come up with models based on population testing, figures such as 1 in a million per event and 1 in 5000 lifetime risk are typically used, but much higher figures are usually found in personal assessment (ie we expect our governments to me more risk averse than we expect ourselves to be, even with the well-being of others around us).
I don't think there's an easy solution to this, but I think we'd be reckless to ignore the potential psychological impact of imposing a risk threshold for personal behaviour that people felt was much lower than that they have previously been using. It's one of the reasons why ordinary adult vaccine mandates are a very different concern from childhood vaccine mandates (where there's very little chance they'll have acquired any strong sense of acceptable risk), or specific mandates such as travel or healthcare (where assessment of risk thresholds is typically relinquished to a higher authority for the specific activity). Mandating a specific risk threshold for ordinary life activities (such as one's normal job) that's seen as far outside a person's normal risk threshold is potentially extremely damaging.
I'd like to separate the issue of children for the time being, as it's true there's not as much data on this as yet. I, as of yet, haven't read carefully or widely enough to have a strong opinion. If it turns out the risks of vaccinating children outweigh the benefits, then so be it. — Xtrix
Fair enough, but bear in mind that the issue of children does affect the issue of adults quite significantly. If it ere shown that the risk/benefit calculation for a 16 year old was not sufficiently above the normal threshold to recommend the vaccine, then it is at least borderline for a 17 year old. It's not like something magical happens on one's 17th birthday which completely changes ow one responds to both virus and vaccine. Now how do we justify imposing extreme coercive measures on that 17 year old (threat of unemployment), if they know that the risk/benefit judgement for them is barely above that which has been assessed as insufficient?
The significance of the decision regarding children is not only about that age group. It has two very important consequences on people's psychology.
1. It shows that the risk/benefit assessment is sufficiently finely balanced that some ordinary
groups (not obscure medical exceptions) fall the other side. That automatically makes people think "well what if I'm more like the average 16 year old than the average 25 year old?", and that's not even an irrational thought - as I said above, physiology is just not that age specific in this respect.
2. It shows that unforeseen consequences are being considered and so reminds people of them. The vaccines (in terms of known consequences) are perfectly safe for children - where 'safe' here means low risk. It's not the known safety that's a problem for the JCVI, it's the fact that the benefit is insufficient to justify the unknown
So for the 25, or even 30 year old worker being coerced into taking a vaccine, they have in mind, not only that they might not even be on the right side of a normal risk benefit assessment (they might be physiologically more like the 16 year old), but they are reminded that the reason why we don't normally give prophylactic medicine 'on the off chance' is because of the unknown risk, thus rendering reassurances of current safety fairly redundant.
The natural immunity issue is relevant for a different reason. The more irrational the imposition, the more people become frightened of it (and not without good reason). The moment someone raises natural immunity and institutions say "nah, we'll just vaccinate everyone" the apparent
irrationality of that decision makes people more resistant. It the considered the main mechanism behind mandates backfiring in the past. "why would they be so insistent on vaccinating me when they haven't even checked if I need it and they actively don't want to even find out?"
There's a serious underestimation of the psychological impact of saying to people "we're going to inject you with this drug, we don't even want to know if you need it or not, some people are better off not having it, but we 'reckon' you're probably not one of them based on your age - even though age is just a proxy for other metrics which we're also to going to bother checking. Oh and you'll loose your job if you don't". Think about it from an average Joe's point of view. It sounds extremely like they really just want to get the drug in his arm more than any other objective. Add that to a (again, completely justified) distrust of government and pharmaceutical companies - the two institutions involved here, both with a track record of lying, and putting the public a serious risk, for financial gain... Well, you've a recipe for serious discontent which weighs very heavily against the potential benefits.
I understand the sentiment but does this claim undermine the safety of the vaccines? I assume you think not, so I don't see the relevance.... — Xtrix
See above basically. It's not really about undermining the safety because it's an unknown.It's about there being a reason to avoid it (unknown risk), but obvious alternatives not being considered. That just changes the trust relationship immediately, it sets up a institutional appearance
of an alternate agenda, and that's just counterproductive and potentially very dangerous (if it stops people who need to take the vaccine from doing so).
In summary, we're facing an unprecedented health crisis, we really
need people to take the advice of their healthcare professionals, take the precautions necessary. To achieve this people have to trust those institutions and believe the advice is in their best interests. People are not blank slates onto which we can just impose beliefs convenient to us, they have prior beliefs which need to be accommodated. Governments and pharmaceutical companies have behaved appallingly in the past. Ignoring alternatives and vilifying experts who disagree with policy exacerbates existing suspicions, and risks a serious breakdown of the relationship essential to public health.
Basically, there's limits to what you can push people to accept and we'd be better off staying within those limits and accepting a small increase in risk as a result, than trying to push them and so doing taking a much larger risk from the breakdown of that relationship.