Moving the Covid Vaccine Goalposts

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Our Covid brain trust member GM has been on a tear recently with his readings of fresh studies and news reports about vaccine efficacy, particularly against the Delta variant. The bulk of this post will be quotes from his missives, but first some cheery updates.

Delta is indeed looking not nice. From NPR’s
The Delta Variant Isn’t Just Hyper-Contagious. It Also Grows More Rapidly Inside You (hat tip David L):

After months of data collection, scientists agree: The delta variant is the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide. It spreads about 225% faster than the original version of the virus, and it’s currently dominating the outbreak in the United States.

A new study, published online Wednesday, sheds light on why. It finds that the variant grows more rapidly inside people’s respiratory tracts and to much higher levels, researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

On average, people infected with the delta variant had about 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected with the original strain of the coronavirus, the study reported.

In addition, after someone catches the delta variant, the person likely becomes infectious sooner. On average, it took about four days for the delta variant to reach detectable levels inside a person, compared with six days for the original coronavirus variant.

Bizarrely, and (as usual) irresponsibly, the CDC and the FDA are recommending against booster shots soon, when Pfizer data from heavily vaccinated Israel (and recall those shots were administered in a much tighter time frame than in the US), shows the waning of immunity there translates into the need for more jabs soon. I’ve been saying for some time that the officialdom should be preparing those who have been vaccinated of the need for another round of shots in the fall/early winter, yet they are trash taking the idea.1 From CNN:

Drugmaker Pfizer said Thursday it is seeing waning immunity from its coronavirus vaccine and says it is picking up its efforts to develop a booster dose that will protect people from variants.

It said it would seek emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for a booster dose in August after releasing more data about how well a third dose of vaccine works.

But in an unusual move, two top federal agencies said Americans don’t need boosters yet and said it was not up to companies alone to decide when they might be needed.

Hours after Pfizer issued its statement, the FDA and Centers for Disease and Control issued a joint statement saying Americans do not need booster shots yet.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” they said.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said evidence was building that people’s immunity starts to wane after they have been vaccinated. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to provide full immunity.

“As seen in real world data released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination, although efficacy in preventing serious illnesses remains high,” Pfizer said in a statement emailed to CNN.

And even though there is reason to be skeptical of Pfizer, news stories confirm that their is a rising number of breakthrough cases in Israel, including ones that contra the CDC look to have been contagious.

GM’s remarks:

Efficiency is down to 64% in Israel right now…

And that’s efficiency against both infection and symptomatic disease, though it is still holding higher against hospitalization.

The notable thing here is that Israel vaccinated first, i.e. a lot of people there are already at the 6-month mark. Moderna have been claiming that neutralization activity against the more immune-evasive variants has fallen below the protection level at the 6-8 month point in the clinical trial subjects, so seeing a lot of breakthroughs in Israel and at this time makes sense if they were indeed correct.

This is being spun right now as “Vaccines work against hospitalization and death, nothing to worry about” and as “nobody promised absolute protection from infection”, which is an obvious goalpost shift because a lot of the people who have “symptoms” but are not hospitalized are far from OK, and, of course, the CDC current guidelines are very much and quite explicitly based on a presumption of sterilizing immunity. But even that narrative will fall apart eventually, because the next step in the decay progression will be for the vaccinated to also start filling up the ICUs, and it’s not far off in the future.

Which is why in Israel they are seriously pondering right now whether to start giving out third doses.

But that’s Pfizer, the best of the best, not the supposedly crappy Chinese vaccines.

Even I, and I am not known for being an optimist, did not expect boosters for the mRNA vaccines so soon…

And, of course, there are more variants on the way, while we still don’t have an updated vaccine and will be injecting people with the vaccine for the 2019 virus well into 2022. So the fourth doses may well be needed even sooner than the third.

Also, right now there are all sorts of schemes around the world involving vaccination passports for the fully vaccinated. But what the hell does “fully vaccinated” mean with 60% efficiency that is gone in less than a year? That house of cards is going to collapse too.

Meanwhile the UK (and several other countries in Europe too) has fully reopened everything with a very openly stated shift to a “herd immunity” policy (which isn’t really a shift, that was the policy all along). But what “herd immunity” can we talk about if even the vaccine has faded in less than a year?

They may get away with it now without collapsing their hospitals and “only” a few tens of thousands of deaths because they are mostly recently vaccinated and right now it’s infecting primarily the young, but that will not be the case during the next surge in Winter, when it’s going to be a different, yet more immune evasive variant driving it.

GM was also not optimistic about treatments as an alternative for tackling Covid:

There is most likely never going to be a treatment. I would not be blaming the medical establishment for not working hard on that (and they are), this is a predictable dead end, and pursuing it will only lead to more false promises.

The mechanisms of pathogenesis are such that it is unlikely there will ever be a “treatment” — something like hepatitis progresses slowly and can be treated because there is plenty of time after its identification for a treatment to be effective.

But here you get infected, you don’t know you are infected for a few days, and even then the symptoms are not very specific, aside from the loss of smell, but even that is something far from all people experience. Meanwhile the virus multiplies exponentially and spreads from the URT to the lower lung and the rest of the body. If the body manages to control it at that point, you are more often than not fine (at least for the short term, you can still have various autoimmune and neurological issues). If it gets to the lower lung and does damage there, you get the sudden runaway immune hyperactivation, and from that moment on it is your own immune system doing most of the damage, not the virus. But that’s on day 9-10, not months into it.

So it’s a rather fast two-stage progression.

Antivirals, with which we have never had much success, could be effective only in the first stage, when the virus is multiplying initially. After that they can do very little. Which is why it is so sad to watch all the pleas for plasma donations by relatives of sick people who are on ventilators — the only thing that plasma is going to do is select for immune escape variants, but curing the patient it will not do. Remdesivir and monoclonals are useless for that very same reason too. If you catch the virus sufficiently early, then a drug could be effective in principle, but making sure you catch each and every case early enough is not compatible with “going back to normal”, that requires constant testing and surveillance because of how sneaky the virus is in the early days of an infection.

In the second stage it is the immune system doing the damage and you need immunosuppressants. But how much better can immunosuppressants get than what we already have and can they become more efficient without doing more damage than good? And are they even going to be effective to the point of being cures? We got the mortality down by 50% with the current steroids, but that’s not at all a “cure”, and there was hesitation to use them initially because the experience with SARS-1 was that overaggressive use of steroids did a lot of damage aside from the effects of the virus. And if you got to the point of needing them, you are most likely going to have lasting damage.

Suppression of infections is the only way out.

One report we got over the transom and was chewed over by our Covid mavens was of a pre-school being closed for two weeks due to symptomatic cases among the toddlers. Our correspondent’s offspring was one case, infected by another child who got visibly sick earlier and is the apparent index case for this bunch. This school has PMC parents, many of them academics in the bio sciences and/or medically adjacent.

Again from GM:

Take a look at this Twitter thread from Biden’s former Senior Pandemic Advisor.

Who in 2020 was putting out articles like these:

We Can Eliminate Covid-19 if We Want To

And giving New Zealand as an example to follow:


He is doing a book tour (which raises the obvious question of where exactly his priorities lie). And we get the following:

“As we do regular testing & contact tracing we will find many more asymptomatic harmless cases. Doesn’t mean there are more necessarily. This is in the “if a tree falls…” school. Getting sick is what we should measure. ”

“Sports teams & other occupations or events with regular testing will show more asymptomatic and mild cases that we wouldn’t have seen.”

This is straight out of the Trump/Bolsonaro/Magufuli/Lukashenko/Berdimuhamedov/etc. “If we do not test and report, there will be no pandemic” playbook. Exactly the same thing.


“The UK is seeing a spike begin in cases that could reach 10s of thousands. That is likely to happen here as well at some point. The big question is whether hospitalizations & deaths follow.”

One curious thing about the UK so far is how few unvaccinated old people there are in the cases, even proportionally. There aren’t a lot of them, but it does seems like it has not yet made its way into those age groups.

But there is the major difference between the US and the UK — the UK has a very high vaccine uptake, 95% if the older age groups, it just has not gotten around to vaccinating the young yet. The US on the other hand is at a similar percentage of full vaccinated, but it is more evenly spread and there are a lot of old people who are not vaccinated. So the same let-it-rip approach that is taken by both countries will result in a huge number of deaths in the US even if it does not do so in the UK. In the short term, of course, in the long term things will be back to March 2020 without constant revaccinations…

And if that wasn’t cheery enough, another reader pointed to a hospitalization of someone in his circle who had been vaccinated. GM was not as bothered by that since it turned out that individual had had a very bad case of Covid before being vaccinated and was also immunocompromised. But GM’s additional observations were sobering:

This is a reinfection in this case, and, despite what a lot of prominent experts have been telling us, there are very good reasons to expect symptomatic reinfections to be worse, re-reinfections to be even worse, and so on. The reason old people are so hard hit is immunosenescence, but not even immunosenescence itself, but the chronic inflammation that comes with the age-related degeneration of the immune system, and which is the key risk factor for a bad response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is also why young people with obesity, diabetes, etc. are also at risk — those are accompanied by chronic inflammation too.

But the virus itself attacks the immune system in such a way that it leaves it in this weird inflamed state that can last a long time (there have been multiple papers showing strange T cell subpopulations developing and persisting after COVID). Which means that when the next infection comes, they will have an elevated risk of severe progression.

And this is aside from the direct organ damage that has been caused by the previous infections, which is also a risk factor. If you have lost 30% lung capacity, and you lose another 50% on the second infection, then what does that leave you with…

That spiraling towards complete ruin will happen more quickly in old people because they start from a worse position and the damage incurred is greater at each step, but eventually, with sufficiently many reinfections, young people will be wrecked too. This is also why the “vaccines or nothing” approach is so criminal — even with a reasonably effective vaccine that you need to take annually, you will still get COVID multiple times — 3 times by the age of 60 for a 95% effective one, 6 times for a 90% effective one, and so on.

Go long masks and social distancing. They’ll be back soon.


1 If we are lucky, we may have more traditional vaccines approved by then, for the benefit of those who are leery of the newer tech offerings. mRNA vaccines were out of the box first because they can be developed very quickly. Recall that GM also flagged a nasal vaccine that looks to be extremely promising, but it is unlikely to be approved and distributed before late 2022.

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  1. Taurus

    If you have lost 30% lung capacity, and you lose another 50% on the second infection

    35% :)

  2. LawnDart

    Am I wrong in thinking that the half-measures taken only serve to help breed a better virus?

    1. Eric377

      What half-measures do you think have been taken? Not clear what the alternative “full-measures” are to me.

      1. Douglas Kulp

        How about universal screening, followed up by a universal quarantine program. A TRUE evection moratorium. Aggressive contract tracing. A coherent public sector response. Clamp down on super spreader events. Clamp down on dangerous employers who do not provide even a minimum of protocols. Universal income for the short term for both individuals and impacted business. Regional evaluation. Public awareness and engagement campaign programs. For starters.

        If FDR was in office when Covid hit, he would have nationalized our healthcare system to deal with the read.

        You know, the stuff that nearly every other country is already doing. And that is just for starters. As it is, Biden is as much a Covid-do-nothing as Trump was.

        1. rowlf

          Well, you do have to give credit to Trump for developing the vaccines available in the US.

          (I wonder how many people will read that and want to cut off their Trump vaccine injected arms now.)

          1. Lambert Strether

            > you do have to give credit to Trump for developing the vaccines available in the US.

            More like, “you do have to give credit to Trump for enabling the vaccines…”

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      Probably correct, a veritable system of mfg., but another theory to consider is that we are the virus and COVID-19 is the cure, or at least an initial attempt at one.

      1. LawnDart

        we are the virus and COVID-19 is the cure

        And the fever of global warming but a symptom..?

        A little early to blast Killing Joke’s “I Am The Virus!” over the shop speakers, but they already think I’m a bit nuts and tend to avoid me, so this will make sure I have the whole morning by myself to enjoy in peace!

    3. Kris Alman

      The half-measures start with vaccines that are targeting just the spike receptor.

      Risk of rapid evolutionary escape from biomedical interventions targeting SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
      The spike protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 is the molecular target for many vaccines and antibody-based prophylactics aimed at bringing COVID-19 under control. Such a narrow molecular focus raises the specter of viral immune evasion as a potential failure mode for these biomedical interventions. With the emergence of new strains of SARS-CoV-2 with altered transmissibility and immune evasion potential, a critical question is this: how easily can the virus escape neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) targeting the spike RBD? To answer this question, we combined an analysis of the RBD structure-function with an evolutionary modeling framework. Our structure-function analysis revealed that epitopes for RBD-targeting nAbs overlap one another substantially and can be evaded by escape mutants with ACE2 affinities comparable to the wild type, that are observed in sequence surveillance data and infect cells in vitro. This suggests that the fitness cost of nAb-evading mutations is low. We then used evolutionary modeling to predict the frequency of immune escape before and after the widespread presence of nAbs due to vaccines, passive immunization or natural immunity. Our modeling suggests that SARS-CoV-2 mutants with one or two mildly deleterious mutations are expected to exist in high numbers due to neutral genetic variation, and consequently resistance to vaccines or other prophylactics that rely on one or two antibodies for protection can develop quickly -and repeatedly- under positive selection. Predicted resistance timelines are comparable to those of the decay kinetics of nAbs raised against vaccinal or natural antigens, raising a second potential mechanism for loss of immunity in the population. Strategies for viral elimination should therefore be diversified across molecular targets and therapeutic modalities.

      1. Mike

        One of the hidden costs of the m-RNA vaccines… They are touted as being rapidly created compared to that of a traditional vaccine with a dead or live virus, but that appears to come at a cost of less effectiveness. It appears their effectiveness is questionable on two fronts. 1st being what you mention above being the narrowness of application, only towards the spike protein. The 2nd being their efficacy of 95% being touted. The efficacy is questionable because it is advertised as you will only have a 5% chance of contracting covid when in all actuality the 95% rate from pfizer and moderna a relative number compared to placebo not absolute risk reduction. I would argue goal posts haven’t moved but just they have been misleading since the beginning about where they actually were.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    The only vaguely good news in all this is that it does seem that the vaccinations significantly reduce the level of serious Covid and (probably) long covid. And, just maybe, mixing vacc types may provide better protection.

    A key issue on this side of the Atlantic is that the policy makers are running several months behind the science, even when they are (occasionally) following the science. Europe is, as usual, obsessed with free movement, so they are putting all their efforts into the new vaccination pass that is to be released this month. The sole purpose of this seems to be to allow pasty northern Europeans to get their suntans, and avoid having to bail out the southern country’s economies directly. Even with high vaccination levels, its hard not to think of planes full of half drunk holidaymakers as massive incubators. And as for Ibiza nightclubs…

    If there is a strategy to this, there seems to have been a collective decision/concensus that politically governments can survive more waves of Covid so long as there are not too many body bags and there are no pictures of ambulances queuing outside hospitals. A willing media is helping out with this narrative – it won’t be long I think before any reports from hospitals will have a tone of ‘this can’t be helped, its just an act of God’.

    Up to the 1950’s, TB was the curse of many societies in the northern hemisphere. It took a long time before it was tackled head on – the authorities often preferring to just usher the sick to distant hospitals where they could quietly die in isolation. No politician lost his job for failing to eliminate it.

    1. GM

      it won’t be long I think before any reports from hospitals will have a tone of ‘this can’t be helped, its just an act of God’.

      I’ve seen this already quite a bit.

      Typical situation:

      A scientists is interviewed by a journalist, and he says something like “our refusal to stop transmission is going to kill both the vaccines and a lot of people and will breed even worse versions of the virus”.

      To which the journalist replies puzzled “Stop transmission? But that’s not possible”.

      So the idea that this is an act of God has been internalized by many already.

    2. Ataraxite

      You have to remember that Covid is not the only aspect of life, and governments should (and do) keep this in mind. For many people, the risk (percieved or actual) from Covid-19 is pretty minimal[1], and they want to do the things that make life enjoyable: seeing friends, going on holidays, socialising, whatever.

      Whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant. In democratic countries, if governments do not try to respect this, they will be replaced with someone who does. So you have the pattern we see in most sane countries: trying to balance the (real) risks of covid against the popular desire to actually live enjoyable lives. Germany, for example: opening up, but against a background of aggresive vaccination, continual control of public events through test requirements and a mask mandate.

      You can denigrate this as “pasty northern Europeans getting their suntans”, but we here in northern Europe have just spent 6 months in lockdown, and there’s simply no appetite for more months of misery. There has to be hope, and – however imperfect they are – that hope has been the vaccines.

      (I should add, that the wild experiments in progress in the US and the UK are not examples of this risk balancing. They strike me as reckless experiements. You can also see this in the “success” stories of Australia, where near zero-covid has been bought at an enormous human cost of family separations, and people denied permission to see their dying relatives for the last time.)

      [1] I saw something today which polled Americans about their chances of dying from Covid-19, and that found the average estimate was around 10%, around 10 times higher than the actual chance of 1% of dying if infected.

      1. Basil Pesto

        You can also see this in the “success” stories of Australia, where near zero-covid has been bought at an enormous human cost of family separations, and people denied permission to see their dying relatives for the last time.)

        you give the game away a bit here. While I hope you won’t think I’m being overly dismissive by referring to the case studies you refer to as news corp-driven human interest stories – the scenarios you refer to are genuinely unpleasant and difficult – it remains fair for me to say – and maybe Rev Kev inter alia can chip in here – that I struggle to think of many compatriots who would prefer that we had fucked things up quite as much as our northern hemisphere brethren have in the last 15 months (and even our gobshite moron prime minister makes considerable political capital out of this fact) because as difficult as non-repatriation and remoteness from dying relatives must surely be, they are not as harrowing as actually dying, and simultaneously not enjoying a relatively pleasant, normal year without fear of dying or even getting sick in most of the country. To put it another way, when I was researching a rebuttal to a similarly bullshitty post earlier this week, I discovered our death rate has been equivalent to 0.0036% of the population, whereas in the US it has been 0.18%. Those two decimal places represent a real human cost that is worth more than your derisory scare quotes around “success”. It’s also worth more, in my opinion, than your unquantified, hand-wringing ‘enormous human cost’.

        As an aside, it might be worth accepting in general
        terms that being an expatriate is a decision that carries with it some inherent risks. I say this as an Australian who loves an overseas holiday, and has been an expatriate – in northern Europe! – twice. Indeed I daresay that that’s the whole point of Smart Traveller, a resource I have spent a lot of time browsing over the years, sometimes out of sheer morbid curiosity.

        1. Brian Beijer

          Hear! Hear! As someone who lives in Northern Europe, I am tired of hearing arguments made like the one Ataraxite just stated. I hear it ALL the time.

          For many people, the risk (percieved or actual) from Covid-19 is pretty minimal[1], and they want to do the things that make life enjoyable: seeing friends, going on holidays, socialising, whatever.

          If “seeing friends and going on holidays” is worth you (or anyone else for that matter) suffocating to death while your lungs dissolve into a puddle of goo, then you need to get your head out of your ass. Sometimes the most important “aspect of life” is f**king staying alive.

          You stated this much more eloquently than I did Basil Pesto, but I suspect we share the same conclusion.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Thank you. I was quite drunk when I wrote it and passed out after submitting it so I’m fairly pleased with myself.

            the one thing I would add is that this dynamic:

            that I struggle to think of many compatriots who would prefer that we had fucked things up quite as much as our northern hemisphere brethren have in the last 15 months

            is starting to invert. Many in my generically liberal milieu are starting to rail against our lack of progress in vaccine deployment – possibly as a knee-jerk reaction against the conservative federal government (both major parties are generically mediocre) – and claiming some kind of jealousy for the northern countries who, following vaccine deployment, are “going back to normal”. The idea gathering steam seems to be that we’re the ones failing on the global stage. I’d hate to see what success looks like. Alas, these people don’t know what they don’t know. It seems like they honestly believe that the world is well past the halfway point with this thing.

            I have other ethical qualms about pushing for acute vaccine distribution in a covid eliminationist jurisdiction when so many other jurisdictions in the world, including in the ~global south~, need the vaccines so much more than we do.

          2. Aj

            And that’s the perfect example of your utter insanity. You’re living in a world of cognitive dissonance that’s going to break and cause you to lose all sense of reality. You’ll never understand the freedom ethic- that there are actually worse events than death. But alas you’re too selfish and worried about staying alive to understand that.

            1. Mercedes

              Ironically, there is really no clearer example of cognitive dissonance than advancing the argument that the desire to stay alive is weak, selfish, or foolish.

              The desire to stay alive is a primal instinct. Every single cell in your body was created to serve that one goal above all others.

              Now, you could make a case for there being circumstances where death would be preferable to staying alive. Those cases are generally ones in which death is inescapable and there is unbearable physical suffering while waiting for the inevitable death. But, when death is not inevitable, the body will fight to live regardless of the physical suffering.

              Worse than the mind-boggling ignorance of arguing that staying alive is not the highest goal of living, is the infuriating arrogance of assuming that your “need” to have a good time is a higher need than another person’s desire to stay alive.

        2. The Rev Kev

          I think that you covered it well, Basil. The only thing that I will add is that a few NSW State Ministers were talking about just letting the virus run free there as it was all so hard to deal with and businesses wanted to stay open but when the NSW Premier gave a press conference yesterday, she had done a 180. It was all about eliminating this virus which from her was totally unexpected.

          I suspect that what happened was that the other States and New Zealand got on the phone to her and told her in no uncertain terms that she does not get to set public health policy in all the other States in the rest of the country nor overseas for countries like New Zealand. That if she did so, NSW would be blockaded from the rest of the country as well as New Zealand and she could deal with the political fallout from that happening.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Presumably a health advisor read her the riot act. She’s mindbogglingly stupid. Victoria offered a perfect case study in what to do and what not to do to control the disease and she ignored it out of, what, ideological stubbornness? Our petty, moronic political scene in a nutshell.

            Similarly I can’t get too concerned yet about the recent “grand re-opening” talk from the PM and various premiers just yet. I don’t know why they’re saying what they’re saying but it seems like our public health officials are very competent and not just telling them what they want to hear. Reality will catch up with them
            eventually, and to their credit, they do seem to listen to the health advisors.

            Nevertheless it remains a concern that it hasn’t registered that broadly speaking, the virus is in control, not us.

      2. GM

        You have to remember that Covid is not the only aspect of life, and governments should (and do) keep this in mind. For many people, the risk (percieved or actual) from Covid-19 is pretty minimal[1], and they want to do the things that make life enjoyable: seeing friends, going on holidays, socialising, whatever.

        Actually this is not what happened at all.

        It is in no way the case that what is happening right now is the will of the people in the presence of full information on the subject.

        People were never told the truth about the virus and were in the same time subjected to a massive well-organized propaganda campaign (curiously, much of it carried out by the very same people and the very same NGO apparatus funded by the same billionaire donors that had been brainwashing the population on climate change and other ecological issues) aiming to make them think the virus is harmless and failing that, that there is no other way.

        And when you have most of the media in your pocket, you can manipulate public opinion in whatever way you want.

        Had people been told the truth, which is that:

        1. There is no herd immunity with these viruses, whether through infection or vaccines. Which should already be empirically obvious — Iran, which is ahead of everyone else in the progression, is on its 5th nationwide wave right now, and was reporting mass reinfections already during the second, and there has been no area that did not go for elimination that has lasted longer than 6 months without a massive wave. And it’s about to become empirically obvious in the highly vaccinated countries too

        2. SARS viruses cause permanent damage. This was well known from SARS-1, which happened in 2003, and 10-15 years later many had still not recovered. Who in their right mind thought SARS-2 would be any different? Sure, the proportion is lower because SARS-2 is milder, but a “small” proportion of everyone is a huge number.

        3. The virus will evolve towards something much worse over time. This was strongly suspected based on previous studies of lab evolution of SARS-1, and was also a huge fear given that the main puzzle about SARS-2 is why is it so mild given that it has a turbocharged spike protein, almost all of the SARS-1 accessory proteins, plus one extra weapon in ORF8. So quite clearly the accessory proteins are much wimpier in fighting innate immunity than those of SARS-1, but they can presumably evolve back to that more potent state. Most of that is to be played out in the future, but the fact is that already over the last 18 months the virus has indeed become worse — B.1.617.2 is at least 2x, perhaps as much as 4x more virulent than the original Wuhan strain.

        So long term “living with the virus” means complete ruination, for society as a whole and for the individuals.

        Had people been told all that, and, most importantly, had they been properly supported financially, the need for a hard long lockdown towards elimination would have been seen very differently.

        But that is precisely the heart of the conflict — the ruling oligarchy will much rather sentence many millions to death and disability and ruin their countries economically (because what kind of economy are we going to have with that level of disability and constant worry about infections?) than turn the redistribution streams in the opposite direction.

        There is also the more abstract problem — such a thing would requite society working together towards a common goal, and that in itself is an extremely dangerous precedent that should never be allowed. Society has to be kept atomized and divided at all costs, because without that it cannot be ruled as easily.

        WWII was the last such grand project, and we saw how hard it was to claw back the concessions given to the masses during and after it.

        1. Henry Moon Pie

          “massive well-organized propaganda campaign (curiously, much of it carried out by the very same people and the very same NGO apparatus funded by the same billionaire donors that had been brainwashing the population on climate change and other ecological issues)”

          Our only excuse for existence is to do our duty as wage slaves and consumers so that the billionaires continue to get their demanded return on capital. That is priority #1 through #5. Personally, I regret that I have but one life to give for our Holy Billionaires and their ever increasing hoard of wealth.

        2. Mantid

          GM, Thanks so much for sharing your insights especially when you state “the ruling oligarchy will much rather sentence many millions to death and disability and ruin their countries economically”. That same oligarchy would like us all to “plug in” to more and more tech. The tracking and societal manipulation are so easy when nearly each person has a tracking device in their purse. Not to mention look at how well tech is doing on Wall St.

          You also mention “full information on the subject.” How do you place Ivermectin in this story?

        3. saywhat?

          Gee, I guess an economy based on wage, rent and debt slavery, besides being inherently unjust, is also non-resilient and ultimately not efficient either.

          And, this can’t be blamed on the Bible but on ignoring it with regard to justice.

          I hope the young and innocent are spared but Covid could easily be a well-deserved correction to the current economic (and other) madness.

  4. Samuel Conner

    Perhaps that subset of the powers that be that gets its income from the sector of the economy that depends on there being live consumers to purchase products and services will become more tolerant of “single payer” when it becomes clear that the size of the customer base, and the funds available to purchase products/services, will shrink without it.

    1. Jen

      Right after they figure out that their reliance on cheap labor requires an abundance of desperate, but not-dead or permanently disabled persons to perform said labor.

      I’m not holding my breath.

      1. hunkerdown

        Eh, it just requires that bourgeoisie be able to stay irrational longer than the proletariat can stay fed. The smart elites are following the path of Richard Rainwater: lay low, learn self-sufficiency so you both have something to offer and have something to eat, whether the living world or the money world ends up prevailing where you are.

    1. GM

      A small company with amazing technology but no manufacturing capacity because of starting small.

  5. Arizona Slim

    Going long on masks and social distancing? That’s exactly what this slender Arizonan is doing.

    This thing is NOT over.

    1. LawnDart

      Yep– time to rotate food stocks and resupply (beat the rush) for what might be a long winter.

      1. ambrit

        I have been seeing exactly this meme propagating across the CT Underground sector of the internet. Not just people “talking their book” either.
        A genuine panic is building.

        1. Glossolalia

          To be fair, people who frequent the underground sectors of the internet tend to always have something they’re panicking about. Heck, I even recall at some point last year one of our humble bloggers on this site was postulating that covid could take out all the workers at water treatment plants leaving us all without running water (or something along those lines).

          1. juno mas

            You assume there is an unlimited supply of technicians capable of operating water/sewer plants. My city was concerned enough to have ALL of them (managers/technicians) live in separate hotel rooms (away from their families, and each other) until they were assured there were effective methods of viral transmission control.

            The same sort of concern was implemented for the city traffic engineers. Congestion traffic-light durations are managed by software that is adjusted as often as every week. Fortunately, the “shut-down” phase of the pandemic eliminated vehicle congestion.

  6. Larry

    The politicians can do whatever they want, but the reality of surges change behavior. If you directly know people who are severely sick, you will start to take this thing seriously. Biden came in with a narrative that by 4th of July all would be fine, hence no boosters and nothing to fret about. Trust the highly politicized science everybody! Aside from that, what can the Feds do in the face of intransigent state executives that decline help?

  7. CanChemist

    The emphasis I came away with on the Pfizer statements yesterday was both good and bad news.

    The good news is that the current batch of vaccines (ie tailored to original strain) are surprisingly effective against Delta. I would expect variant boosters, supposedly coming out this fall, to be even more effective. The bad news is that vaccine immunity seems to follow natural immunity… it also wears off around 6-8 months.

    From that standpoint I would imagine that if we focus on 6 month boosters, ideally as tailored as possible to emerging variants, that it’s our best plan of attack. The bad news is that it presents large obstacles both in terms of how dynamic herd immunity will be, and in regular delivery / uptake in the population given such short timelines.

    1. Mikel

      “6 month boosters, ideally as tailored as possible to emerging variants”

      Then we get to find out on the fly how shot after shot after shot of playing with mRNA does to bodies?

      They’ve only received approval for a two shot process and each stage needs testing for effects. That’s why they have to get approval for even one more shot. Everybody has already turned their backs on even thinking there could be long-term effects from the current mass experiment. Each process gets more and more rushed until there is another disaster on top of Covid?

      They do not know. You do not know. I do not know.

      1. CanChemist

        What I stated was what I view as the reasonable hypothesis on the current data.

        I will say that there are active clinical trials already for some time on variant boosters/3rd doses, so this won’t be coming out of nowhere.

        The mRNA instructions do not persist for long in the human body. Beyond that, you’re correct, we haven’t been doing this long enough to know.

        Even if problematic data come to light, given the severity of covid and the damage it causes, we may still end up having to make the choice of the lesser evil. Time will indeed tell.

        1. antidlc

          I will say that there are active clinical trials already for some time on variant boosters/3rd doses, so this won’t be coming out of nowhere.

          And we’re supposed to trust pharma and a compromised FDA?

          Um, sure, OK.

        2. TalkingCargo

          Time will indeed tell.

          So maybe we should wait for more data before adding more jabs of experimental drugs?

      2. polecat

        I know that I’m not taking ANY of that janky gene ‘therapy!

        …. and, to continue to push this junk on children is absolutely 1000% criminal. I will repeat – !CRIMINAL!

      3. Kris Alman

        Then we get to find out on the fly how shot after shot after shot of playing with mRNA does to bodies?

        Or more specifically what the manufactured spike protein does when it floods our bodies after repeated mRNA vaccines/boosters.

        I am grateful I can remain a hermit, while others who have to interact with pesky humans who take great risks have no choice. On May 1st, I was ready to get the vaccine and read a couple of articles that led me to hit the pause button.
        Spike protein and the brain
        A study titled “The S1 protein of SARS-CoV-2 crosses the blood-brain barrier in mice” was published in Nature Neuroscience this month. Herein, researchers at the University of Washington inoculated a dose of S1 portion of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein — without the whole virion or genome — into the blood or nose of adult age mice.

        With the advent of many Covid-19 vaccines in a short time, it’s expected that their long-term safety is questioned. All Covid-19 vaccines use the coronavirus spike protein to induce immunity in some way or another. But recent studies have found that coronavirus spike proteins alone — without the whole virion or genome — are sufficient to induce biological abnormalities in brain and blood vessel cells.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Not true. See this from IM Doc:

            I invite you to the following document regarding the Moderna Vaccine – I have referenced this several times this year – because it is truly the crumbs we have been allowed to see about the most basic research on these vaccines –


            It is a pdf – so I am not able to cut and paste – but go to page 47. This is the middle of the pharmacokinetic discussion in rats and non-human primates. The 6th paragraph down starts off “concentrations of mRNA 1647”. Read the paragraph and parts of the next page. In that, you will quickly realize that the mRNA particles were NOT limited to the deltoid. They made it to every single tissue in the bodies but the kidneys ( This is very common – the kidneys are flush flush flush and things do not hang out there long). They added the fact that the mRNA/lipoprotein particles made it to the brain – across the barrier – and they made it to the EYES and the TESTIS. These last two are included because they are among the most non-vascular tissues in the body. If they made it there – they made it everywhere. They were found in the circulating plasma hours later.

            One would assume these mRNA/lipoprotein particles were then left to be absorbed into those cells and do their thing in whatever tissue they happened to be transported to. THIS IS NOT JUST CONFINED TO THE DELTOID.

            1. Olivier

              Some amount of circulating spike protein is to be expected because of, e.g., normal cell death, which releases the membrane-anchored spike proteins; the question is: in which quantities. That was addressed in several of the studies mentioned in the write-up above (“Addressing the biodistribution concern” section) which cites, inter alia, reports from the European Medicines Agency. The spike protein is found in many tissues but in very small amounts except in the liver, which is normal since that is where unwanted molecules circulating in the bloodstream are destroyed. Moreover their concentrations decay very rapidly.

              So it is unclear whether there is a cause for concern here. At the very least it is incorrect to talk of “flooding”.

    2. GM

      The bad news is that vaccine immunity seems to follow natural immunity… it also wears off around 6-8 months.

      The vaccine lasts longer, by a couple half life periods of the neutralization titers decay. It will still fade, but not as fast as natural immunity (which is also gained at the cost of serious internal organ and immune system damage)

      In this case it’s viral evolution that shortened the duration so much.

      1. saywhat?

        Might not fading immunity be a feature, not a bug of the immune system? To, for example, avoid autoimmunity?

      2. Objective Ace

        >The vaccine lasts longer, by a couple half life periods of the neutralization titers decay.

        Do you have a source for this? Certainly seems plausible… but you know the expression, “Trust but verify”

        1. GM

          The source is that neutralization titers immediately post vaccination are ~10X those at the start of convalescent.

          So they have a few extra halvings before they fall below the protection threshold

      3. CanChemist

        But based on the Israeli public health data, Pfizer is calling it at 6 months? Even if they are choosing the beginning of the decay curve, that’s still putting natural+vax on an equivalent time track in practice.

      4. Jason

        which is also gained at the cost of serious internal organ and immune system damage

        This is a false statement. The correct statement would be: A certain percentage of people who acquire natural immunity do so at the cost of serious health issues, which vary in degree. Some can be quite serious, as we have seen.

        Fortunately, most people who acquire natural immunity do not have these issues. The markers for susceptibility are the usual: age, weight, underlying health issues, life stressors causing immunosupression, etc.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Do not spread disinformation. You are accumulating troll points.

          The evidence of damage from getting Covid is extensive. One Texas doctor found worse than smoking level lung damage in all the hospitalized patients whose chest Xrays she looked at and similar damage in 70-80% of other Covid patients, including asymptomatic patients. Chest Xrays are rarely given in the normal course of events. Some of this damage may reverse over time but that’s currently not known.

          Other studies came up with somewhat less dire finding (but recall the ones below looked only at asymptomatic cases, while the Texas MD was looking at hospitalized v. non-hospitalized cases, so the findings aren’t contradictory, since her sample would have included patients who were sick, just not sick enough to go to the hospital):

          Researchers who have scanned the hearts and lungs of people who tested positive for COVID-19, but never felt ill, have seen telltale signs of distress.

          In the lungs, scientists have reported cloudy white areas called “ground glass opacities” in asymptomatic patients. Ground glass opacities are also seen patients with more severe COVID-19.

          Across four different studies of people with asymptomatic infections, about half have had ground glass opacities on CT scans.

          And that’s before getting to long Covid, which appears to afflict 15% to 20% Covid victims, including the young and those with asymptomatic cases.

          Mayo notes:

          Although COVID-19 is seen as a disease that primarily affects the lungs, it can damage many other organs as well. This organ damage may increase the risk of long-term health problems.

          Organs that may be affected by COVID-19 include:

          Heart. Imaging tests taken months after recovery from COVID-19 have shown lasting damage to the heart muscle, even in people who experienced only mild COVID-19 symptoms. This may increase the risk of heart failure or other heart complications in the future.
          Brain. Even in young people, COVID-19 can cause strokes, seizures and Guillain-Barre syndrome — a condition that causes temporary paralysis. COVID-19 may also increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

          Some adults and children experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome after they have had COVID-19. In this condition, some organs and tissues become severely inflamed.


          More detail on brain damage from Harvard:

          COVID can cause damage to the brain directly by encephalitis, which may have devastating or subtle consequences. In one British study of 12 patients with encephalitis, one made a full recovery, 10 made a partial recovery, and one died. This study also found that a number of patients with COVID suffered strokes. In fact, COVID infection is a risk factor for strokes. A group of Canadian doctors found that individuals over 70 years of age were at particularly high risk for stroke related to COVID infection, but even young individuals are seven times more likely to have a stroke from this coronavirus versus a typical flu virus.

          The Mayo extract also shows that your claim that only those already not in the best of shape suffer lasting Covid consequesnce is also misleading.

          1. Jeff W

            One Texas doctor found worse than smoking level lung damage in all the hospitalized patients whose chest Xrays she looked at and similar damage in 70-80% of other Covid patients, including asymptomatic patients.

            The observations of that Texas doctor in this news report actually seem worse than that:

            Like many, [Dr. Brittany Bankhead-Kendall]’s treated thousands of patients since March.

            Of them, she tells CBS 11 News those who have had COVID-19 symptoms show a severe chest X-ray every time. And those who were asymptomatic show a severe chest X-ray 70 to 80% of the time.

  8. The Rev Kev

    ‘The bulk of this post will be quotes from his missives, but first some cheery updates.’

    Yeah, this is probably a new use of the word ‘cheery’ which I have been previously been unaware of. The year 2020 was all about this virus spreading from country to country with deaths first reported individually, then by the scores, then by the hundreds, then the thousands and here we are 4 million deaths later. This year has been all about vaccines being introduced to save the day, even if they don’t. And also suppression of cheap drugs (cough*Ivermectin*cough) that work because they are so cheap and measures that should be adopted to fight this virus (cough*ventilation*cough) because they are so expensive to fully do. Next year for 2022? I am going with Arizona Slim & LawnDart by saying that it is time to stock up and prepare to batten down the hatches gain. And has been proven by the governments of countries like the UK, Germany, Australia, Canada, Spain, etc, you’re on your own.

    1. Mantid

      Rev, You’re the first to mention Ivermectin. I’ve been reading and enjoying the comments regarding Covid and I could have easily responded to each comment with, IVM – but that would become annoying. Ivermectin is not rocket science, too cheap to meter, and off patent. It’s widespread use would give us all different subjects to comment on.

      1. ks

        My thought, too. We’ve had over a year to evaluate Ivermectin’s effectiveness – why the dearth of studies? I also wonder why ‘unvaccinated’ is equated with ‘unprotected’ when no one knows how many unvaccinated people have already contracted and survived the virus or the extent to which they remain protected from re-infection. Measuring the presence of antibodies is not the same as measuring immunity.

        1. campbeln

          I also wonder why ‘unvaccinated’ is equated with ‘unprotected’

          Think of the shareholders!

  9. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Drbeen’s most recent video titled Covid-19 does a walk through of the mechanics involved from 2 studies regarding the long term damage in blood cells caused by Covid in recovered patients, which has lead to tissue damage & possibly also due to those factors undermines the efficiency of stem cells.

    Physical phenotype of blood cells is altered in COVID-19

  10. JMM

    Spain is in a rush to reopen again and the number of daily cases is rising fast. Some provinces are asking the central government for permission to impose regional lockdowns. Germany just placed it in the list of “risky” countries. It’s 2020 all over again, and it’s going to be like this for a while.

    Also, the UK social experiment is madness, but they probably know that. They tried the “herd immunity” at first but people were not too tired of this situation and there was the expected pushback. Now they are.

  11. Mikel

    So the FDA went from, in less than a year, quickly reading the research and granting “emergency approval” that wasn’t for only emergency situations, rubber stamping all that pharma had to say, to not listening what pharma has to say.
    What’s really going on?

      1. PHLDenizen

        To some extent that’s true, but mid-term elections are the primary driver IMHO. The Dems rode in to save the day on magic carpets, woven out of mRNA strands — developed on Trump’s watch, though that fact has been memory holed.

        IIRC, Pelosi herself balled up her wobbly fists in manic triumphalism post-election and exclaimed, “We have a vaccine!” The implication being Biden is an inoculation against the coarseness and chaos that is Trumpism. That was of foremost importance to the PMC. A distant secondary concern was containment of Covid — the thing that mattered most to the non-rich and non-elected.

        Admitting that the vaccine isn’t a miracle is an admission that whomever is in office is, ultimately, inconsequential. The Dems couldn’t fix it any better than Trump, tarnishing their narcissistic delusion that theirs is a premium brand. A huge PR loss that will likely lose them even more seats.

        But more galling than the losses themselves is the humiliation of being an interchangeable commodity with the creature they find so loathsome, so vile, so incompetent, so embarrassing. They are no better than Trump. So they go full three wise monkeys coupled with furious gaslighting.

        1. GM

          To some extent that’s true, but mid-term elections are the primary driver IMHO.

          Well, there are probably at least three COVID surges between now and the midterms, and if a mass revaccination campaign is not launched, by the time they are done, the death toll on Biden’s watch may well equal or even exceed that under Trump.

          So I have no idea what the hell they are thinking.

          They’ll blame it on the stupid unvaccinated rednecks in the South during the coming surge (and will completely ignore the huge number of blacks and Hispanics that have not been vaccinated on the coasts), but at some point ICUs will start filling up with vaccinated people, and then what?

          1. Kevin Carhart

            I think liberal Democrats could be in an odd mobius strip of dismissing at all costs, and celebrating at all costs, a lot of the same people at the same time.

      2. polecat

        Psychopathic criminality All across the board; the FDA, WHO, NIH, BigMedico, Big(P)harma, a box of corrupt Congress- ‘Now with Joe Spongiform in every jab!. BigSecurity$tate 3-letter and an utterly capricious Media-NOT-Media .. almost EVERY institution that was once considered to mostly have the citizens’ wellbeing in mind, no longer the case. The Mask of Evil has been removed – we’re seeing it openly, and in our faces! Just observe just how much effort has, and continues to, suppress ANY valid info regarding the efficaciousness of Vits. D, K, C, Ouercitin, HCQ, Ivermectin ..which has been known for months now.. All of which appear to stanch, when applied early, the worst of Covid in those infected – canceled by a giant dome of silence, put forth by a whole host of bad actors, and not to anyone’s benefit, except for immense fist-fulls of Benjamins .. and oodles of Power for them, and them alone!

    1. QuicksilverMessenger

      Exactly my question here too. If the FDA and CDC are so captured, why would they say “no” to Pfizer’s assertion that a booster is needed? Wouldn’t they just go along if they were so captured? Or is this an elaborate cover scheme whereby they will first say ‘no’, then say ‘yes’. Or perhaps simply incompetence?

      1. Jason

        It’s all of the above, and more. Good luck, and remember to keep your head up, keep smiling, push ahead. We can do this together. Have fun. Don’t forget to go shopping!

        1. campbeln


          Say “no” at first. Run more “research” to “prove” it’s “safe” then let’er’rip on the Q3 or Q4 stock bump!

          When this new round majic putters out, replay the same move or shout hoocuddanode, depending on the prevailing winds at the time.

          It just looks bad if it’s all yes men 100% of the time. You gotta play “opposition” on occasion so that it looks like you’re fulfilling you mandate.

      2. GM

        There’s regulatory capture by corporations and regulatory capture by political influences.

        In this case the latter trumps the former.

        Also, this is a very messed up situation all around.

        Pfizer happen to be telling the scientific truth in this case — the vaccine is fading and boosters are needed.

        But in the same time they stand to gain a lot from that, especially if they are allowed to raise prices to what they would like them to be (in which case vaccines will become unaffordable to many, and that will send us towards even more complete disaster).

        So they will be attacked as promoting boosters to maximize profits. Which they are doing, but it just so happens that boosters are indeed necessary.

        Meanwhile the politicians have declared “Mission accomplished”. In other countries where no such final victory proclamations were made, they are already getting started on the third doses, because they don’t have that self-inflicted constraint, but in the US they will deny that boosters are needed for as long as that can be denied, which means until it’s too late.

        What a nice situation to be in, isn’t it?

        And, of course, annual boosters for everyone that still carry substantial breakthrough risk, is a complete lunacy, which should tell every rational person that the only meaningful way out of this is to lockdown hard the way China did and still does when necessary with elimination as the goal. There is no other solution.

        But that means supporting people, i.e. downwards redistribution, and we can never be allowed to even think about such a thing.

        Which is why that is at this point seen as a “fringe” view, the propaganda campaign did its job marvelously.

        1. Nikkikat

          Just saw “advice” from CDC. “ No to boosters”, and that they were shocked and surprised by Phizer saying boosters were needed. CNN added that there was “NEW Advice” on schools. The statement that followed stated there was no need for vaccinated teachers or students to wear mask only the unvaccinated.
          This is all about the Biden admin and Democrats thinking this is their ticket for the midterm elections. That they have saved us all. Also of note. Pelosi had just the other day stated that all staff and congressional members MUST be masked until further notice.
          Clearly, they know the CDC is lying. They are looking after their own thin skins as usual. They want schools open and parents free to return to the slave trade.
          It’s the economy stupid!

      3. Douglas Kulp

        Pfizer isn’t the only corporate interest at work. Most a desperate for the “re-open” norm to take hold. This is true for the education system, both K-12 and Universities. It turned out distance learning wasn’t nearly the cash cow they were hoping for, with the real revenue streams being the traditional education system. High-stakes testing alone is probably worth several billion dollars a year.

        Here in Kansas, the virus was mostly under control – until the schools re-opened. The result was a super spreader event that exposed nearly every community in the state. And they are STILL fixated on “no-change open” which means no changes to ventilation, no changes to class size, no screening, no quarantine policy. They only thing they do is check temperatures, which is already known to be ineffective. So not only must schools re-open at all costs, don’t you dare suggest spending even a dime to adapt to the new Covid reality because – markets.

        But for the most part, there is this myth that children don’t catch Covid, and they certainly aren’t contagious. And this is complicating efforts to approve vaccines for teenagers and pre-teens.

  12. Cocomaan

    The competing Pfizer and US government statements are embarrassing.

    Clearly they’re not talking to one another at all, which is monumentally stupid.

    I can’t believe my taxes pay these people’s salaries

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      My guess is Pfizer is holding out for a huge contract, and Biden is doing an Oliver routine for a few more token gestures instead of repealing the TRIPS wire. Now Pfizer wants to sell the booster in lieu of the hideous contract, and Biden is showing an element of self respect. You can’t reason with greed.

      1. Mikel

        I think the government knows boosters are needed and will be reviewing what they send in, but not reporting each step of the way. To talk about the boosters is to talk about how temporary the protection is and school is coming up and they’re trying to drag people back into commercial real estate (just a couple of examples.)
        You can throw all the events you want, but a good number of people will be counting down the months since their last shot. And again, it’s not only about how healthy an individual is, it’s about how healthy everyone in their household is…..

        1. antidlc

          “To talk about the boosters is to talk about how temporary the protection is …”

          And if you are trying to convince the currently unvaccinated to vaccinate, talking about boosters won’t help convince someone to vaccinate.

          My 2 cents.

  13. madarka

    Dominican Republic is already giving booster shots to the elderly and healthcare workforce. Most of those fully vaccinated (with two doses) have the chinese CoronaVac shots, so the third dose is gonna be Pfizer. It was a controversial decision announced around two weeks ago since we’re only nearing 50% of the population with at least 1 shot and 39% have 2; the Panamerican Health Organization (LATAM’s offshoot of WHO) cautioned against it, but now the world seems to be catching up.

    So far, Delta hasn’t been detected here but genomic surveillance is spotty (it all gets sent to the CDC in the US), and since it’s now dominant in the US and the country is fully open for tourism, it’s only a matter of weeks before it spreads here. I’ll get my Pfizer booster and will be persuading those who are not sure about it.

  14. juliania

    Pardon me if I am misstating, but didn’t IM Doc say that each round of vaccine, as in needing a third or booster shot, increases the stress for the one being vaccinated? He would have only been looking at two, but I seem to remember he said something like ‘time will tell’ and of course that also applied to any long term effects of the initial vaccinations as well.

    1. Cocomaan

      We don’t know how well mRNA vaccines work if you are jabbed with them over and over again. It’s hard to find anything studying it.

      1. IM Doc

        It’s hard to find anything studying this because there is none – we have not had enough time.

        But one of the problems with mRNA technology in these vaccines is indeed there will likely be a more vigorous immune response every time they are given making the number of reactions even higher – and this seems to be higher the younger you go.

        Studies are already underway on the mRNA booster – and unofficially via friends that are recruiting patients – things are not going so well at all. Many many more are getting very sick. Also, please note that in some of the arms of these protocols – there is a repeat of the two shot process – so you actually are giving people a 3rd shot followed a month later by a 4th. Unofficially, according to my reliable sources, the number of people turning down the 4th shot is astronomically elevated – the 3rd shot reaction is just that bad. All of these subjects have already had a 1st and 2nd shot earlier this year.

        Again – this is why something like an inhaled nasal vaccine may be a much better modality.

        This has all been so rushed – it is quite a quagmire right now.

        1. KLG

          To my knowledge, and I have looked, the only other attempt at an mRNA vaccine for humans is the Zika virus project. Which did not work, despite being perfectly rational from virtually any biological perspective. But that is true of any number of rational designs to treat any number of diseases. One way to look at these failures is there are too many variables for the equations we know…

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          So also go long J&J, correct?

          I really wish I could get an old-fashioned inactivated virus vaccine. I’d trade off loss of efficacy with having to wear a good mask and engage in other NPIs all day.

        3. Olivier

          @IM Doc Am I correct that the response to these boosters, while stronger, would not necessarily provide better protection because of the phenomenon of antigenic memory?

          If so, booster efficiency over time (as in: with the booster index as x-axis) would exhibit a ratchet shape: starting from a high point, decreasing efficiency until a variant has sufficiently diverged from the original variant that the immune system labels it as new and mounts a fresh response against it. Rinse, repeat and you’ve got the ratchet. Am I onto something or just blabbing?

          1. IM Doc

            We simply do not have enough experience with these vaccines over a proper amount of time to know if this will happen or not.

            This same type of thing happens in the flu shots – they become less protective as we use them year after year – but then we have decades of known experience.

            You can assume this might happen – but that is the best I could say right now.

        4. GM

          There is an additional important question here — is this more vigorous, to the point of impossibility of administering further shots, reaction because of the S protein or because of the mRNA vaccine formulation?

          I don’t have an answer, but I do know that mRNA technology has huge potential for curing really serious things like cancer.

          And if it turns out that it is not the spike, but the RNA vaccine in general, that means we might have spent all those bullets that would have come very useful later in life for billions of people…

          1. IM Doc

            Yes –

            mRNA technology may be wonderful for things with a one or two hit regimen like cancer. Possibly other immune disorders.

            But vaccines where repeated injections will need to happen over time – is still an open question.

            And I agree – at this point it is very unclear/unknown if this is the lipoid envelope, the actual spike protein or the mRNA that is causing the problem –

            What I will say – when this vaccine approach was first coming to the fore last year, I had multiple conversations with research oncologists and rheumatologists who were very concerned that this very promising mRNA technology would be sullied in reputation if the mRNA vaccines for COVID somehow backfired or screwed up. It really is quite promising for many onc issues – but I see their point about the reputation. Only time will tell.

            1. grayslady

              Interesting. On June 9, 2021, Dr. Robert Malone was interviewed by Michelle Malcolm of Global Paradigm Shift (available on YouTube) where he went into a fairly lengthy background on the development of the mRNA concept. According to his comments in the broadcast, there was originally no success with using the mRNA to attack cancer because the scientists couldn’t target the mRNA molecules as specifically as they needed to. That’s when he came up with the idea of a more general approach–specifically, a vaccine. Perhaps something has changed in the interim regarding cancer treatment. Let’s hope so.

        5. polecat

          But STILL people are sayin ‘Yeah, go ahead ., It’s (mostly) perfectly safe … (think of ‘David’, of “Prometheus” flim fame) – and doubles as ‘Your Patriotic Duty to uh, ‘arm up’ against the non-virtuous “!OTHER!”

          This propaganda campaign spewed out by @uthority is quite the p$yop to behold.

          BRAVO! Well played!

  15. R

    As a New Zealander, it doesn’t really make sense to compare our countries curve to anywhere else in the world. There was barely any covid in New Zealand so what they did was to shut the border and lock down hard.

    Worked, but a near airtight border isn’t a realistic option for most of the world.

    Looking to asian countries with land borders, higher initial infection rates, and a successful response would make more sense.

    And now (i’m overseas) NZ is locked in what seems to be an extremely paranoid mentality, far behind the world on vaccination, and with the borders still shut after two years. Once people get used to ‘zero’ covid, even going from 0 to 1 is hard, and its not going to be pretty as the nation comes to terms with this virus being endemic and zero not being an option moving forward.

    — short of being an international ‘quarantined island’ indefinitely cut off from the world – which i’m sure many fellow kiwis would be only too comfortable with, myself, I would like to be able to go home for christmas without being slapped with a $3000 bill for a forced 2 week hotel stay.

    1. GM

      Look at what’s happening in Israel right now

      Whoever is telling people in a ZeroCOVID country “We will vaccinate and open borders” is not telling the truth.

      There will quite likely be no opening of the borders even with vaccination

      And that is the wise thing to do, as will become apparent in the coming months

    2. juliania

      R, what a cousin did early on, wanting to relocate from living in Great Britain, was that her sister in NZ obtained a small trailer or caravan and parked it in her backyard for the quarantine duration. That mightn’t be feasible for just a visit, but it would certainly be better than the isolation of a hotel environment with other potentially infected persons. And Christmas being summertime, to be able to be out of doors would also be practical and a way to enjoy company with family members at a distance. Two weeks and then one is free. Plenty of air movement in that island country. Anyway, she did it just to make sure she was not bringing the virus in. You do have to stay put, and there have been notable infractions, so that may not now be possible. Hopefully in future it will be.

      I remember that long before covid we arrivals would be subjected to a heavy disinfectant spray before the plane touched down. It didn’t happen for ship berthings, but back in the day so much time at sea meant we had quarantined on the way down.

    3. Tom Bradford

      From inside New Zealand what you call a ‘paranoid mentality’ seems like common sense. We’ve watched and seen again and again over the last eighteen months how half measures to deal with Covid – how compromises trying to balance economic damage against widespread death and illness – have failed. The lesson we’ve learned here is that if you give Covid an inch it wins.

      Moreover we enjoy having our country back again. We’ve discovered that all but a few travel agents can survive without hoards of Chinese tourists climbing out of their coaches for a ten minute stop to take photographs of one of our many beauty spots before climbing back into it to move to the next one. I’ve just enjoyed my first visit to my local ski-field in years, because I knew I wouldn’t have to queue an hour for a ski-lift, half-an-hour for a coffee in the Lodge.

      I’m afraid, too, that you won’t find much sympathy from those in my circle at least – and I think they’re pretty representative – for those New Zealanders who choose to make their lives overseas but expect to be able to scuttle home if the going gets tough – bringing Covid with you when we’ve made sacrifices to stamp it out here.

      So yes, many New Zealanders are quite happy with the continued absence of anyone not willing to put up with some inconvenience in exchange for the privilege of being here – and by the way if you’re a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident your fellow citizens will in most cases pick up some or all the bill for your two weeks in quarantine:

  16. Expat2Uruguay

    Everybody talks about the Delta variant, but you should spare some of your attention for Lambda, which May evade antibodies. Lambda could be contributory to why highly vaccinated South American countries like Chile and Uruguay are having huge outbreaks. The Lambda variant comes out of Peru, which has had by far the highest death rate per capita in the world. More Doom to go with the Gloom

    1. GM

      C.37 does not have the P618R mutation. It does not even have the P681H one, nor anything else in the FCS .
      So the expectation should be that it is not fitter than B.1.617.2

      Watch out for mutations on top of B.1.617.2, that’s a much more obvious threat

        1. arte

          No worries, after the media-led Corbynisation and subsequent intelligence service-fingerprinted removal of Hancock – who I am surprised to see might have been the only person holding the ravening “freedom” fanatics back – the UK laboratory of millions of half-vaccinated COVID patients is just about ready to brew up several more variants, in order to approach that optimally problematic combination as fast as possible.

      1. Raymond Sim

        I’ve been waiting for the world to take wider notice of the Japanese discovery that the L452R mutation permits evasion of cellular immunity in persons with the HLA-A24 serotype. It would seem pertinent to the challenges Southeast Asian countries are experiencing at the moment, and also to the high case fatality rate in Los Angeles this year.

        So far as I’m aware this phenomenon was not a predicted aspect of L452R, though the potential for similar capacities, via other means, had been identified.

        I’m inclined to think that with viral replication occuring at the inconceivable rate it currently is, our preconceptions are likely to mislead us. Stacking on B.1.617.2 is the route to worseness visible to our reason, but is very possibly just the bear in our flashlight beam, and us standing in the midst of the dark, dark woods.

    2. Michael Sharkey

      “The Lambda variant comes out of Peru”

      Does anyone question the relationship between the origin of the variant strains and the location of the vaccine trials? I noticed that Peru began administering 300,000 of the Sinopharm doses to health-care workers in February 2021. India’s Covishield trial began in October 2020, one month before the emergence of the Delta variant in November of that year. According to Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche’s theory, the time between doses of these two dose vaccines affords the virus a perfect laboratory to detect and find workarounds to the immunity being created. If that’s the case, then the vaccines only provide a short term solution, while pushing the virus to evolve into more virulent strains.

      1. LawnDart

        Yeah, so doesn’t that suggest holding back until it could be hit at once from as many sides possible?

        But that requires setting aside politics as normal… never happen. My bad.

        Profits before people, always.

    3. Alena

      Uh thanks, now I am even more scared. I should stop reading comments backwards and maybe finish the article first?

  17. albondiman

    RE: CNN link:

    “But in an unusual move, two top federal agencies said Americans don’t need boosters yet and said it was not up to companies alone to decide when they might be needed.”

    Is that meant to suggest it shouldn’t be unusual in USA Inc?

    Anyway, the official line may be that, but at the CDC ACIP meeting from 6/23 suggests to a pro-booster stance for the elderly, immunocompromised, and front line healthcare workers: link to powerpoint. There is also a useful timeline at the end.

  18. Expat2Uruguay

    Go long masks and social distancing. They’ll be back soon.

    Am I correct in understanding that masks and social distancing have little effect in controlling the spread of the delta variant? I feel pretty hopeless about avoiding the Delta variant and I am just going to resume my Ivermectin dosing schedule per the flccc guidelines for prophylaxis.
    (I haven’t been lurking around here lately reading comments, so I’ve missed the ongoing discussions.)

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Am I correct in understanding that masks and social distancing have little effect in controlling the spread of the delta variant?

      I don’t think so. “More contagious” doesn’t mean that Delta would be even more contagious were Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to be dropped. I’m double-masking now; it’s the only additional thing I can think of to do.

      1. juliania

        Me too! There was an interesting study I believe you linked, Lambert, that talked about the inhospitable environment created by cloth masks – inhospitable, that is, for the virus. I find that using two masks does create such a warmer, more humid environment without actually feeling less comfortable as there is an insulating factor in the doubled air space, (sort of the way doublepaned windows work.) I don’t mind looking funny, and I worry less about unmasked people around me. But as a retiree, I don’t have to be in crowded spaces except when I’m shopping, and I can choose earlier trips to the store as well. So masking and isolating is easier for me than for most.

      2. Alena Shahadat

        Yes, me too, I just decided while waiting my turn for the vaccination, the safest conduct is to stay home. I doubt the Delta will be gone by september when I have to go back to work though.

  19. Basil Pesto

    fwiw (admittedly not much) I’m possibly more concerned now than I’ve yet been (for context, I’m writing this in a crowded but safe bar, in zero covidsville). The epistemic fog seems more dense than it’s ever been – just look at the comments here for example, and, even mitigating for the usual knee-jerk “everything is thalidomide” cynicism, the readers of this website are still atypically well informed. The precautionary principle seems consigned to the dustbin of history. I have no idea how the next 12 months will play out, but can only hope for the best, both in my jurisdiction and the wider world – I don’t dare make any predictions either way, because, hey (going back to epistemology), the fuck do I know? (paraphrasing)

    1. Cuibono

      “The epistemic fog seems more dense than it’s ever been”
      Mission accomplished. All IMO of course

  20. Skorn

    GM states , ‘There is most likely never going to be a treatment. I would not be blaming the medical establishment for not working hard on that (and they are), this is a predictable dead end, and pursuing it will only lead to more false promises.’

    There is now peer reviewed evidence supporting the use of Ivermectin, as both a preventative and treatment for C19. I don’t expect organized medicine to embrace generic repurposed drugs for obvious profit driven reasons. I also don’t fault GM, the “There are no alternatives to vaccines” narrative has been a masterclass in disinformation. The media has of course ignored the Ivermectin paper recently published in the American Journal of Therapeutics.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please re-read GM on treatments.

      For a treatment to be effective, you have to be able to administer it before the disease has progressed very far.

      Covid generally, and Delta even more so, reaches a critical state quickly, so by the time an infection is confirmed, a treatment only limits the damage, as opposed to beating back the pathogen (as say antibiotics with pneumonia).

      1. gallam

        Test and treat was implemented quite successfully in Mexico.

        If you show a positive PCR test you receive ivermectin at the same time, along with instructions for when to take it. It is simple and appears to be effective.

  21. Michael McK

    The role of inflammation in poor outcomes made me wonder if beekeeping might be associated with better Covid outcomes.
    I personally experienced a huge reduction in pain from an old sports injury when I started beekeeping. I don’t suit up to tend bees (except one very defensive hive years ago), only wearing goggles as protection so I get a few stings now and again.
    Stings are said to to reduce systemic inflammation in general. I am curious if there are better survival or lower hospitalization rates among beekeepers.
    Of course anyone can get more stings in their life even without working beehives by grabbing a bee off a flower and letting it sting you..
    I poked around on and found this link which says ‘maybe, we should look into it’. It also mentions a Chinese survey of beekeepers and apitherapy patients which could imply a preventive action.

  22. Kris Alman

    One has to wonder if these vaccines are going to remain as Emergency Use Authorization indefinitely. It would be in PhRMA’s best interests if they don’t want lawsuits.

      1. campbeln

        If the adverse reactions are so rare and the $Billions are flowing for the vaccines (and soon, their boosters) then what would the argument be to continue the liability shield?

        Or… are the number of adverse reactions not REALLY that small after all?

  23. GroundZeroAndLovinIt

    With Delta rising and vaccine mojo waning, the CDC today announced that your vaccinated over-12 kiddo can go back to school without masks.

    I’m having a hard time convincing myself the U.S. is not being run by an an insane death cult. It’s almost like Fauci and Walensky et al should just do their press briefings and tweets while wearing a skull-hat like something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

    1. antidlc

      I’m having a hard time convincing myself the U.S. is not being run by an an insane death cult.

      So I’m not alone. Good to know!

  24. Skunk

    “But the virus itself attacks the immune system in such a way that it leaves it in this weird inflamed state that can last a long time (there have been multiple papers showing strange T cell subpopulations developing and persisting after COVID). Which means that when the next infection comes, they will have an elevated risk of severe progression.”

    Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) only occurs with certain types of viruses, such as dengue fever. The very early attempts to create a vaccine for SARS using the actual virus led to ADE. SARS is not COVID-19, but there are similarities. We don’t seem to be seeing any clear signals of ADE so far, but I would not rule it out.

    1. IM Doc

      I was in a case conference on Zoom this AM. One of the presenters mentioned ADE and that yes, it is a real problem, and yes it is profoundly bad if it happens. We have real life experience with it in multiple failed animal vaccines – and unfortunately as you mentioned above in actual human vaccines.

      Because of the very real possibility this could happen with the COVID vaccine – coronaviruses are absolutely one of the virus families where ADE has occurred in animals – the health authorities have been on the lookout for any evidence of this since the very beginning. Absolutely no indication so far – and furthermore, if it was going to happen would have much likelier happened early on not now. The speaker went on to add, however, that if boosters are employed, the guard will have to go up again for ADE and even possibly more stringently.

      Also – another similar vaccine issue was discussed at length – which can best be condensed into the story of Marek’s Disease of Chickens. I am not going to type that all out – just go look it up. But that is also a possibility – though remote – and would likely be happening much further down the road.

      There was a time in my life that all this grim stuff was really purposely attempted to be kept within the realm of medical professionals. Uninformed speculation on these things can really lead to a lot of panic and fear – but alas we now live in a world where we just let it all hang out for all to enjoy. Somehow – I liked the previous world better.

      1. Raymond Sim

        If I had to deal with the public in these matters I’d likely prefer they not know more than I needed them to. But unfortunately, the medical profession is absolutely teeming with incompetents, and professional mystery must surely have done a lot to permit that.

      2. LawnDart

        Uninformed speculation, IMDoc:

        My original comment, paraphrased: are the measures taken so far serving to build a better virus?

        What may result from these rather disparate efforts?

        Yes, asking you to read tea leaves and throw chicken bones, but it is in the spirit of “prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.”

        If I were to speculate upon this as a fiction writer, where I need to hook an audience in order to capture their attention, what are some scenarios that I can use in order to sell some books or even get a Hollywood deal?

        This is pure selfishness on my part and probably unreasonable to ask of you since I’m going to deny any of your involvement and keep all of the profits to myself that I am sure to spend in the style of Hunter Biden. Minus the 10% cut.

        If you voiced your greatest fears with regards to where we stand today with the
        Covid-19 virus, real or imagined, what would they say?

      3. kareninca

        IM Doctor, you don’t think that the info that came out of England a few weeks ago suggested ADE?

        “According to the report, since the start of February to 7 June, there were 33,206 Delta cases in England: while 19,573 were in unvaccinated individuals, 1,785 were among fully vaccinated people and 7,559 were among those who had received one jab, with the vaccination status of the remainder unclear.
        In total, 383 people in England were admitted to hospital with the Delta variant over that period – 223 of whom tested positive for Covid before turning up at A&E – with 42 having had two doses of the jab, 86 having one dose and 251 unvaccinated

        Of the 42 deaths recorded in England within 28 days of a positive test involving the Delta variant, 23 were in unvaccinated people, with 12 among those who were fully vaccinated and seven among people who had had one dose.” (”

        So, it looks like the vaccine is doing a great job of preventing people from catching the Delta version of covid. However, once they catch it, the vaccinated are much more likely to die. That looks like antibody dependent enhancement to me. Could that be right?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The problem is, as GM has pointed out, the data on efficacy and other results are questionable, particularly on small #s, because we don’t know how much of a viral load each victim suffered, when in the disease progress they were admitted, etc.

          One thing GM has pointed out is that the vaccinations in the UK are VERY much skewed by age. The vaccination rate among the elderly is on the order of 95% and tails down among younger groups. This is different than the US, where at least for people over 30, we have much closer to equal vaccination rates among all age groups.

          Older people generally have less robust immune responses. That’s why the flu vaccine for those over 65 is much stronger than for younger patients. And the vaccines were pretty much not tested on people over 80.

          So these results are likely largely if not entirely explained by age skew.

          Now US or Israel data could change this picture.

          1. kareninca

            Thank you for the explanation. The age differences in vaccination in England could make sense of that. If mostly elderly people are vaccinated then yes, the deaths might be higher among the vaccinated because of their reduced response to the vaccine.

        2. Raymond Sim

          Last time I checked on it (a couple months ago?) discussion of ADE seemed to me largely incoherent, due to a lack of fundamental knowledge on the precise mechanisms of inflammation and tissue damage.

          My takeaway at the time was that the ‘ADE is happening!’ side were pointing at events that were not clearly ADE while the ‘ADE-schmay-D-ee’ sorts were willfully ignoring signs of something, which if not ADE per-se, seemed deserving of some serious attention.

          As usual both sides were so heavily encumbered by their respective lists of forbidden possibilities that the debate didn’t seem worth following.

        1. Raymond Sim

          I’m at 8:23 so far, and already have a laundry list of not-quite-accurate, or not-quite-relevant items to critique. I’ll just set them aside with the observation that Dr McCullough is a Gish-galloper. Doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but as a rule for living, always doing the opposite of something advocated in a Gish-gallop would be one way of being right more often than wrong with minimal effort. Back to the video …

          Okay, having listened to the whole discussion, at no point did I hear Dr McCullough make any case whatsoever for there being a mechanism by which the vaccines are more likely to trigger ADE, or similar phenomena, than prior natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 would be. And damningly, he ignores all the now well-documented negative effects of infection on subsequent immune response.

          In other words, he didn’t actually make a case for vaccines presenting a greater danger of ADE than we are already confronted with via the virus itself, and he ignored the fact that natural infection damages the immune system in ways that deprive the victim of proper immune memory.

          That would be bad enough, but ADE is only one catastrophic immune malfunction we have to worry about. The damage SARS-CoV-2 does sets the stage for others just as bad, or worse.

          So, no he doesn’t make the case. He fails utterly, and in such a way that I’m left thinking him either a fool, or an evil man.

    2. Mantid

      Skunk, Ivermectin is both an antiviral and an anti-inflammatory. More meta-studies confirming that fact: See “Ivermectin as an adjunct treatment for hospitalized adult COVID-19 patients: A randomized multi-center clinical trial” at

      The positive papers are everywhere, except in the controlled news outlets.

    1. rowlf

      Oh boy howdy! I had to go back into open office land and all I could think of was:
      Marvin: This will all end in tears.

  25. AJB

    So do we need to pay more attention to the progress of the emerging vaccines from Novavax and the many others including the Aussie company Vaxine (I know about Vaxine as I’m an Aussie)?

    Getting a protein based jab to market could very quickly change the course of this, or am I too optimistic?

    According to the MD of Vaxine, he believes a multivariant protein based vaccine will be more broadly effective than boosting the mRNA/DNA jabs every 6-9 months. It is just that protein based jabs take longer to develop so only emerging now.

    Could the protein based jabs replace the mRNA/DNA jabs, making Pfizer etc redundant?

    Or will Pfizer etc find a way to bury competitor jabs?

    Vaxine is soon to commence phase 3 trials.

    I’m no expert, but do live in hope that something better than the mRNa/DNA jabs come along soon.

  26. Alena Shahadat

    Thank you do much for this post. Although media tend to make us feel as if the epidemics was over and all was well, I suspect that it is a trick to shove all the businesses into one bag labelled “opened so quit asking governement for help”. And if the tourism business is still 80% down from before the covid levels, not our problem. Incredibly, in Geneva pre-covid hotel guests were from 75 to 85% business travellers!

    I am conscious that my line or business is part of the global problem ( taxi to airport travellers). But still after one and half year of misery or become clear that I should better change my activity. It only became increasingly difficult with nothing left to invest as I was waiting too long for it to blow over.

    Thank you for the heads up!

    1. Raymond Sim

      It’s horrifying to contemplate how profitable the loss of wealth by ordinary people has been to the oligarchy.

      You mention Geneva, I don’t know how an ordinary person in Switzerland should have known it wasn’t going to blow over. If the Swiss government and establishment had worked as hard to protect the people as they did trying to convince them everything was fine, it would indeed have blown over. Admittedly, travel would have been severly reduced – but reductions due to things like quarantine and entry restrictions would be a lot more predictable, and hence something one at least had a chance of coping with, don’t you think?

      1. Alena Shahadat

        “If the Swiss government and establishment had worked as hard to protect the people as they did trying to convince them everything was fine, it would indeed have blown over.”

        Ha ha, that’s totally true. They waited too long to take mesures in the beginning. But that is on one hand due to the federal system, where the cantons have to devise what to do, then call a council between them, then call a conference with the Confederation. On the other hand, there is the “bourgeois” political parties protecting their interests. For example they refused federal help with commercial rents. They also refused second round of Covid loans. Because of that, the Confederation was slow to take mesures to close down the because then it is up to the Confederation to pay up the damage. Whitch it did for the first wave of Covid. The second wave however or was up to cantons to take measures and to pay the damages whitch some of them did, others reluctantly, others “too little too late”. I love living in the Switzerland but this crisis reminds me of De Bernières’ satire of democratic decision process and it would be funny for an external observer.

        As for a normal citizen to be able to foresee next evolution, I remember not believing in a second wave… I was relying on things like IATA reports until or hit me that airlines were falsely optimistic because they had to secure financing from governments.

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