Group interest versus self-interest in smallpox vaccination policy
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The recent threat of bioterrorism has fueled debate on smallpox vaccination policy for the United States. Certain policy proposals call for voluntary mass vaccination; however, if individuals decide whether to vaccinate according to self-interest, the level of herd immunity achieved may differ from what is best for the population as a whole. We present a synthesis of game theory and epidemic modeling that formalizes this conflict between self-interest and group interest and shows that voluntary vaccination is unlikely to reach the group-optimal level. This shortfall results in a substantial increase in expected mortality after an attack.
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