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JCVI endorses Status Quo Bias

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The UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recently recommended against vaccinating children under 16 against Covid, despite granting that "the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms." (Of course, aggregated over a subpopulation of millions, even "marginal" improvements in risk profile can result in several saved lives and scores or hundreds fewer hospitalizations.  And, as Deepti Gurdasani makes clear in this thread,* all the evidence should lead us to expect the "unknown" risks from Covid to outweigh those from the vaccine, so taking uncertainty into account should lead us to regard vaccination as all the more important.)So what's behind the JCVI's verdict?  They are at least admirably transparent:In providing its advice, JCVI also recognises that in relation to childhood immunisation programmes, the UK public places a higher relative value on safety compared to benefits.It's important to be clear on what this really means. Note that this is not invoking any kind of philosophically defensible harm/benefit asymmetry.  (Many people think it's more important to reduce suffering than to promote happiness, but that's not what this is about.)  Vaccines aren't to make you happy. The "benefits" they provide are specifically safety benefits, i.e. against other health risks.  So what the JCVI is really saying is that they place higher value on protecting people from potential harms from vaccines than on protecting people from potential harms from COVID.That is deeply messed up.I just hope that greater philosophical clarity here will help people to see how messed up it is (and so change these institutions' values in future).  Every time some dopey bureaucrat claims they're prioritizing "vaccine safety" over "benefits", they need to be met with the response: No, you're prioritizing safety from vaccines over safety from COVID.That's clearly indefensible.  We just need. . .

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