Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flu Shot Rationing

So yesterday I went down to the campus center and got my flu shot. Towson was giving free flu shots to students and charging $10 for faculty members. The plan was to dispense flu shots from 7 to 7 yesterday and today.

The demand for free and $10 flu shots was too high and by just after 2pm on the first day, Towson's clinic was out of flu shots. If we were looking at this from an ECON 101 first week of class, we would say there was a shortage and the clinic should have raised their price.

But sometime later in ECON 101 we also talk about externalities. Towson can produce a lot of positive benifits (externalities) if it gets as many people to get the shot as possible. Students living in dorms are more likely to spread it to each other due to close quarters. So the price favoritism to students is probably a good idea, plus professors have more money so are less likely to decline a $10 flu shot.

I got my flu shot yesterday at 11am. But its worth noting that if the clinic would have been on Monday and Tuesday I might have waited until the second day, since I often work from home on Mondays. In which case I would have been rationed out of getting a flu shot.

Like Mankiw's magic pill from Monday's blog, there are only so many resources or this case flu shots. Should professors have received flu shots, should students have to pay, should student living in dorms pay less? No matter the set up there will be rationing of those flu shots of some sort, because if they are given away there are clearly not enough for everyone.

Finally, thank you to who ever ran and helped with the flu shot clinic. I got in and out in under 5 minutes. It should be considered a successes that all the shots were given.

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rjgitter said...

This is kind of a fun issue to discuss. At Ohio Wesleyan faculty are not getting flu shots at all. The reason is that it is a student health center and meant to be used by students. The goal is not profit maximization, but to serve the students. So, no shots for us. In light of their mission/goal, it makes sense, unless we would cause an externality. I imagine, though, the students would be more likely to get the flu from the local pizza delivery guy than their professor.

OK, time to bump elbows and go to class.

Bob Gitter (Dad)

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