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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Is the following reaction to getting the first COVID shot logical?

 Alice works at a charity that puts together bag and box lunches for children.


They all wear masks and they are 12 feet apart and very careful, and nobody there has gotten COVID.

Then Alice gets here first COVID shot and says:


I am not going to work for that charity until I have had my second shot and waited  4 weeks so I am immune. 


She is really scared of getting COVID NOW that  she is on the verge of being immune. 


Is that logical? She was not scared before. So does it make sense to be scared now? I see where she is coming from emotionally, but is there a logical argument for her viewpoint? I ask nonrhetorically.


bill g. 

11 comments:

  1. To the extent the following model holds the bahavior makes sense I think: the closer you are to immunity, the smaller the cost of being careful (a shorter duration of whatever care you need to take) whereas the cost of getting covid remains the same (it's just as bad to get covid 1 second before you would have been immune than any other time) so the cost/benefit favors being more and more careful the closer you are to immunity.

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    1. Having thought about this more I don't think the above is enough to make the argument. If the risk per unit time of not being careful vs the cost per unit time of being careful are both constant then you should either always be careful or never be I think. On the other hand if the cost of a long quarantine is super-linear then it could make sense to switch behavior close to the end. And it seems correct that quarantining for a year is more than 52 times the cost of quarantining for week. For a week you can reschedule appointments and visits with your family etc without too much burden whereas a long quarantine is much more costly.

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  2. On the way home from the charity Alice walks to the bus stop. Turning the corner, she sees that there are some people in the bus stop, so the bus hasn't left yet. She hurries on the last 50 meters to make sure she won't miss the bus. Logical that she hasn't hurried before?

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  3. Waiting for her second shot and four weeks is an overkill, but indeed getting covid within days of the first shot may make it even worse than without the vaccine. It is especially important not to catch the virus several days before the first shot.

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  4. So, essentially we are saying that the utility function
    of the individual changes w.r.t. timing??

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  5. Assume she (internally) discretizes the possible outcomes into 0 (livin' la vida loca because I can't stay indoors forever so I'll take my chances), 1 (there is a well-defined short amount of time I have to stay indoors and then I'll be fine, but I did not manage), 2 (same as before, but I did manage). Without a single shot, 0 is her only possible outcome unless the environment is benevolent and she eventually gets a shot. If she does get the shot, the outcomes are 1 or 2 (her preference ordered in the natural way 1 < 2). In this case, her strategy of staying indoors seems to help towards ensuring 2 in the worst case --- i.e. even against a malevolent environment. It seems to be "nondominated" so an "admissible strategy" of hers. Did I force the model? :)

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  6. No, it is not logical (in a rational sense), as "immunity" is neither binary nor specifically linked to the second shot: Some days after the first shot, the immune system is already far better in dealing with the virus than ever before; the second shot only gives this ability another boost.

    However, fear is not rational: In hindsight when getting infected you would judge how much you would have had to do to not get sick:
    Without the first shot (I would add: before you have a first vaccination day in sight) you would have been forced to quarantine and not be able to do charity work for a very long time. After the first vaccination however, you would have only had to quarantine for a short time which is easier and does not harm the charity that much.

    Thus I'd say: Alice is not more afraid of getting sick as before, but fears judgment by her future-hindsight-Alice.

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  7. I would assume that Alice wants to do the charity work and might be avoiding a situation when she is never able to do it because of the pandemic going on for too long: the cost of never doing (this particular) charity work > cost of catching covid. On the other hand with the vaccine she can be certain that she has to delay it only by 1 month and the opportunity won't go away.

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  8. I don't think it's logical. I've been seeing similar statements in people around me; I think it's due to what I've been calling for a while a regret-minimizing response that humans tend to have (I didn't make this up but I can't recall where I first read about it). We seem to regret bad things happening just before we are safe from them (e.g., the cop movie trope where somebody gets killed "two days from retirement", etc.) more than when they happen at some arbitrary time far away from any "edges". I haven't yet seen any compelling arguments why this makes logical sense.

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    1. This. I would feel like an idiot if I ended up in a hospital because I wasn't extra careful once I got the first shot and before being fully vaccinated. Logic is a red herring since very little of human emotion and actions follow strict rules of logic.

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    2. I agree with J. I would go further and argue that it is perfectly "logical" to avoid doing things that have a good chance of causing you future pain. We all seem to think that it's "logical" to avoid eating something from a restaurant that might have eggs in it if I'm allergic to eggs. If I know that I am, in effect, "allergic" to the worst-case scenario above, in the sense that such a scenario will cause me future psychological pain, then what is "illogical" about avoiding it? Psychological pain is no less real than gastrointestinal pain.

      It seems to me that there's a lot of literature out there (one example: "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely) that uses the label "irrational" or "illogical" in a way that obscures what the data are really telling us. The scientists often implicitly shoehorn the data into a poorly thought-out theory of rationality (or so it seems to me).

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