The Optimal Prevention of Epidemics
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This article studies the optimal intertemporal allocation of resources devoted to the prevention of deterministic epidemics that admit an endemic steadystate. In a stylized ‘yeoman-farmer’ economy, the dynamics of the optimal prevention depends on the interplay between the epidemiological characteristics of the disease, the labour productivity and the intergenerational equity. A minimal level of labour productivity is shown to be necessary to reduce in the long run the prevalence rate of the epidemic. If this threshold is not reached, the prevention is then at best temporary, simply slowing down the spread of the epidemic disease. However, it may not optimal to undertake temporary prevention. Conversely, if labour productivity is sufficiently high, permanent allocation of resources to prevention is feasible but not necessarily optimal. If it is the case, the prevention monotonically increases with time for low initial prevalence rate, while it is decreasing or hump-shaped otherwise. Finally, paths that yield to the eradication of the epidemic disease are considered. Upon existence, such paths are optimal if the pure discount rate is sufficiently low.