• Robert MacCulloch

Is NZ headed toward an elimination / closed borders / non-herd immunity equilibrium?

Our authorities have repeatedly emphasized how the country has implemented an "elimination strategy" regards the virus. The prominent Otago medic, Michael Baker, wrote in March 2020 that "New Zealand [is] committed to an elimination strategy in response to the COVID‐19 pandemic". And in December 2020 the Guardian newspaper in the UK ran the headline, "Ardern reveals the moment she chose Covid elimination strategy".

However, there are increasing reports of clinics that have been set up to dispense the vaccine in NZ experiencing relatively low demand. Why? Could it be that since we don't have the virus in the community there's little incentive to get vaccinated, unless of course one is planning to shortly embark on an overseas trip? By contrast, for folks living in the UK or India, everyone has been desperate to get vaccinated. Why? Since in those countries where the virus is rampant, the vaccine is a life saver.

Put another way, economists like to discover the "equilibrium" state. This one could be ours: if we maintain severely restricted borders to ensure that the virus is eliminated from our island, then people can continue to live happily with little incentive to get the jab. Conversely, if significant numbers of people don't get the jab so herd immunity is not achieved, then our borders must remain largely closed to protect everyone. Doesn't this situation constitute a self-reinforcing equilibrium?

Am I missing something? The logic seems strong. Has the government (deeply) thought through this problem? I don't know the answer as it hinges heavily on people's psychology (other than paying people to take the vaccine!).

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