domingo, 3 de mayo de 2009

Sobre la Economía de una Epidemia y su Prevención: Reflexiones de Becker y Posner

Ya he escrito varios post sobre los posibles costos de una epidemia o pandemia de influenza y referenciado distintos estudios al respecto. En esta ocasión quiero compartir algunas reflexiones de dos magníficos académicos, Gary Becker y Richard Posner sobre este tema publicadas en su Blog el día de hoy.

Algunas ideas de Becker
"Note that flu pandemics involve a huge " externality" because infected individuals have limited incentives to consider the likelihood of infecting others when deciding how much contact to have with other individuals. This externality justifies a significant public health involvement in trying to control the spread of flu during a pandemic.....
I have indicated that the vast majority of people are willing to pay a lot to gain protection against deadly flu viruses. This is why it would be desirable to greatly increase the stockpile of drugs and vaccines even if the probability of another pandemic were low, and its nature not known. For example, the expected worldwide cost in terms of willingness to pay to avoid the risk of another great pandemic that had a one in hundred probability of occurring during the next twenty years would be approximately 1/100 x $20 trillion, or about $200 billion. This cost would justify sizable increases in world spending on antiviral drug and flu vaccines."
"The interesting economic issue, besides the costs inflicted by the disease, stressed by Becker, is the optimal response to the danger of a lethal flu pandemic. Ideally one would like to be able to calculate the expected cost of the pandemic and compare that with the cost and efficacy of the possible preventive and remedial efforts. The expected cost would be the cost inflicted by the pandemic discounted (multiplied) by the probability that, in the absence of preventive measures, that cost would be incurred. Unfortunately, that probability cannot be estimated. But since we experienced such a pandemic less than a year ago, the probability cannot be considered trivial. Since the potential cost if such a pandemic does occur is so enormous, efforts at prevention or mitigation deserve serious consideration...
Optimal responses to pandemics, whether natural pandemics or ones contrived by terrorists, are complicated not only by diminishing returns, but also by the multiplicity of catastrophic threats. Even if multiplying the number of hospital beds tenfold could be a justified measure in preparation for a possible lethal flu epidemic, it would be immensely costly and this would as a practical matter preclude financing measures directed against other catastrophic possiblities, which include abrupt global warming, asteroid strikes, biodiversity depletion, nuclear terrorism, and (as we have become acutely aware) global depressions. We need an overall "catastrophe budget" that would match expenditures to the net expected benefits of particular measures targeted at particular catastrophic threats."

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