Pandemic Priorities

It’s been over two years since the COVID pandemic began, and a great deal of progress has been made. But how much have we learned? We have a vaccine available, now for people of almost all ages. It’s an extraordinary achievement, but how effective is it in the end? And perhaps more importantly, what do we now know about how to handle future pandemics? These are the sort of questions that are heavy on Dr. Vinay Prasad‘s mind (and mine!). In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes Prasad back to explore these questions and more.

Now we’d like to hear what struck you in this conversation. Use the prompts below to spark comments here, or use them to start a new conversation offline. The conversation is what we’re here for,



1- Prasad is clear that he believes the COVID vaccine to be a remarkable achievement which clearly benefitted us in this pandemic. What does he mean, then, when he says we may now face diminishing returns from the vaccine, especially in younger people?


2- Prasad says we now have two buckets of risk with regard to vaccination. The first is the “original antigenic sin” bucket, the second is the risk involving myocarditis. How do these buckets differ, and how does Prasad believe we should approach each? And importantly, what role does he think randomized control trials should play?


3- Roberts asks Prasad what “things public health distorted that will plague us over time.” How does Prasad respond? How have these issues affected the way you think about the pandemic?


4- Next, Roberts asks Prasad whether the most aggressive lockdowns prevented the most deaths? (FWIW, Prasad dubs this “one of the greatest economics questions of the next quarter century.”) How can we know if a lockdown helped or hurt a country, according to Prasad? What might we do to learn more?


5- The conversation concludes with a discussion of the impact of COVID on children, particularly mask mandates. According to Prasad, what do we know and what do we not know about them? To put it mildly, Prasad is very unhappy with the lack of randomized trials, which he thinks would be easy to accomplish. Why does he think that, and what does he mean when he says, “I think a nation that is willing to, I mean, print $5 trillion in money and lose $20 trillion in GDP [Gross Domestic Product], but is not willing to spend, you know, $10 million, a hundred million, on running sort of just basic public health randomized trials? I think that, to me, is a problem.”