January 10, 2021

Mental models

Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine gamble; The upside of quitting

A few things worth checking out: 01-10-2021

Read Time 2 minutes

Here are a few links worth checking out:


Britain takes a gamble with Covid-19 vaccines, upping the stakes for the rest of us (Stat, January, 4, 2021)

Chances are you’ve heard about the new COVID-19 variant. It’s become more clear that this new variant, B.1.1.7, is indeed more infectious. The new strain first made headlines in the U.K. and it’s now been reported in several countries, including the U.S. The question remains about how to get as many people vaccinated as possible. What is Britain doing to mitigate the contagious spread? This piece does a good job getting you up to speed. The punchline is that they will stretch out the interval between the administration of the two vaccine doses required for COVID-19 from the recommended three to four weeks to as long as three months between shots. The problem is that it is not known how long initial protection from the single shot will last. One risk is that there will be a bunch of partially immunized people walking around—a breeding ground for a new, vaccine-resistant strain. So it’s a cost-benefit of vaccinating a wide breadth at once to contain the spread with the possibility that the first round vaccination net is cast too wide and a resistant mutation ensues. We’re playing in a land of unknowns. Jury’s still out on whether other countries will want to follow their lead or not.




I Quit: 20 people who walked away from their jobs, their religion, their relationships and even this assignment (New York Times, January 20, 2020)

These twenty anecdotes of people quitting brings into question what we call quitting in the first place. Is it taking a break? Is it stepping away from that thing, never to return? Either way, Vince Lombardi’s adage that “winners never quit and quitters never win” doesn’t always hold up. Heads-down determination is important, but not if it blinds you to what you could or want to be doing with your time instead. Sometimes, though, what we have already invested in that thing can make it hard to move on or at least take a break. But what’s the cost of holding on? To put it another way, what do we forgo that could bring something better? Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt write about the upside of quitting in their book, Freakonomics. They also discuss the delicate balance we negotiate between sunk cost and opportunity cost in a Freakonomics podcast episode. For what it’s worth—I go by what Levitt advocates: fail but fail fast.

– Peter

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  1. “My concern, as a virologist, is that if you wanted to make a vaccine-resistant strain, what you would do is to build a cohort of partially immunized individuals in the teeth of a highly prevalent viral infection,” Bieniasz told STAT.

    Britain is about to screw us all….

  2. Just finished eating a sprinkling of allulose on my oatmeal.

    There’s a LOT we don’t know about these vaccines. I’m very pro-vaccine in general, (albeit, had always a bit ignorant about autoimmunity risk the whole time, and antibody-dependent enhancement–which, admittedly, are risks associated with not being vaccinated, as well.)

    Your interview with Dr. Offit was so enlightening. Thanks for it.

    We don’t really know a lot about how long TWO shots last, whether people can contract/spread virus after being vaccinated with one or two shots, whether ADE will be an issue months down the road either with the same variant or a different variant–and we have always known that coronaviruses mutate rapidly. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about any of this. I’m supposed to be super thrilled and excited about the new vaccines, and, while I have tremendous (understatement) respect for vaccine researchers, I’m just a bit nonplussed right now.

  3. I had enough anxiety before you introduced the prospect of a new vaccine-resistant strain so I’m just going to go ahead and forget that I read this, thanks.

    I wish you and Dr. Rhonda Patrick would team up more.

    I also wish one or the other of you or someone respectable and interesting would make a short, entertaining, easy-to-understand video describing how the mRNA vaccine works. There’s too much disinformation and bad information scaring people.

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