When Does 66% Equal 95%???

When Dr. Fauci talks about COVID vaccines, that’s when! We’ve all seen Tony on TV, repeatedly telling listeners to “Get any vaccine you can get when it is your turn to get vaccinated.” But check this out. What you will see is a new challenge for J&J. Developing a working vaccine was tough. Getting people to accept their vaccine is constituting yet another challenge.  

Here’s what is happening. First, you had the J&J vaccine tested in a different time frame and different geographic areas than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That means it might well have been encountering different, more infectious variants, thus accounting for its lower efficacy.  

Then, you have the natural tendency, as described by Behavioral Economists, for people to try to simplify information on which they are basing decisions. Thus, a vaccine that is efficacious for 95% of patients is thought of as “working for everybody,” while a product that is 100% effective in preventing death but only 66% effective in preventing disease is thought of as “sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”  

Bottom Line. Perhaps the biggest problem here has been the history of confusion and misinformation that has permeated the entire COVID-19 pandemic. People trying to sort out he specifics of vaccine effectiveness face a significant statistical challenge, and Fauci vouching that we “now have three effective vaccines” simply adds to the confusion.  

SO. J&J’s communication challenge here might well be almost as daunting as developing the vaccine to begin with!  

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