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Tyler Cowen

A Covid Vaccine Could Make Social Divisions Worse

A cure is unquestionably a good thing, but it will disrupt some settled (and healthy) norms. 

Is America ready for this?

Is America ready for this?

Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

The Pfizer vaccine, along with its likely successors, is a very good thing for the U.S. and the world. Yet it’s also likely to reshape America in some unsettling ways, segregating society more tightly into rational and irrational responders, especially in the short run.

The first issue will be how Americans respond over the course of the next few months. Simple logic suggests that when a good vaccine is pending, you should play it much safer. Instead of putting off that vacation indefinitely, just wait until you’re vaccinated, possibly as soon as next summer. In theory that should be an easier adjustment to make, as indicated by what economists call “intertemporal substitution”: waiting for a short time is easier and less costly than waiting for a long time.