Managing major risks creates problems for governments when probabilities are hard to estimate and outcomes are uncertain. Reviewing the experience of the 2009 swine flu pandemic fear, Adam Oliver argues that the UK government over-reacted in some key respects. Partly underlying this response was an ‘aversion to ambiguity’ pattern of behaviour that has long been studied by social scientists. Ambiguity aversion led to an under appreciation by ministers of the opportunity costs of acting, resulting in the government prolonging an insufficiently targeted use of antivirals, and the purchasing of more flu vaccine than was necessary, at an additional cost of perhaps £500 million
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