Our Two Covid Problems

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

Charts showing Covid daily cases and Covid daily death through September 1. Note the difference in the ratio of new cases to deaths in the left third of the charts (source: CDC)

An uncomfortable fact. We have two problems with Covid in the U.S., not just one. They do overlap, but each on its own is responsible for the persistence of the virus among us.Let me explain.

‘Let’s You and Him Fight’

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
—Jay Gould (cited here)

First, people who are virulently anti-vaxx are being media-stirred to be even more anti-vaxx, because “freedom,” with new rebels added by the day. These people would exist anyway, but not in these numbers, except for the culture war that:

  • Republicans Party supporters like Richard Viguerie started in the late 1970s and cynically continue to profit from electorally, and
  • Democratic Party supporters exacerbate by demonizing anyone on the “idiot side of the political fence.”

The still-approved term for the other side’s supporters, though not said in public by people with standing, is “deplorables.” Lower down on the “people with standing” scale, the term is used freely. For example:

This was written after the January 6 riot, but note that it targets “Trump supporters,” meaning all Trump voters, including those who voted Republican just because they couldn’t stomach mainstream Democrats.

To put a number to it, that comment tars close to 75,000,000 voters out of the total voting pool of 160 million Americans. That’s a lot of people to disdain.

And this remark is certainly not alone. From just this month:

And another:

You get the idea. Half of the voting public is being driven up to hate the other half, and each side happily participates. As a result, we have a war that will never end unless those promoting it stand down. Which they won’t.

All this has made being “deplorable” a badge of honor on the one side…

…and made treating right-wing voters as if they were “deplorable” a badge of membership on the other.

For example, consider this snarky comment…

…and this, from the queen of mainstream anti-Trump orthodoxy…

Rachel Maddow Rips Fox News For Pushing ‘Horse Dewormer’ For COVID Treatment

…which freely conflated using the horse version of ivermectin with using the FDA-approved, known-safe people version available in pharmacies.

All of which leads to events like this:

It’s impossible not to conclude that the pharmacy above is responding to Democratic ecosystem orthodoxy and violating its duty as pharmacists to do it. Reminds one of those (deplorable) days when right-wing pharmacies wouldn’t fill birth control prescriptions.

Because of all this, we may be closing in on the maximum percentage of Americans who will be vaccinated, until a greater enough number of deaths — tragedies that touch a great many more families and friends — lays all of us low and humbles the violently angry on every side.

Clearly, one hopes and prays not to see that outcome. Which sadly means one hopes this war won’t end.

The Falsely-Named ‘Pandemic of the Unvaccinated’ Hides the True Nature of Our Vaccines

Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca do not require that their vaccine prevent serious disease, only symptoms.
—Dr. William Haseltine

But all this public panic, anger and shaming of the unvaccinated by the vaccinated — what the Sun-Times calls “the pandemic of the unvaccinated”, for example — hides another fact. The Covid vaccines, as good as they are, were not designed to prevent infection in the first place, only symptoms.

Let that sink in. The current Covid vaccines were not designed to prevent infection. That’s a major reason why “breakthrough infections” occur. In addition, because the vaccines do prevent severe symptoms and a vast majority of cases, the number of breakthrough infections must, by definition, be under-counted.

This, from September 2020, was written by Dr. William Haseltine, formerly of the Harvard Medical School and a hero in the fight to genetically characterize AIDS (bio here and here):

Prevention of infection must be a critical endpoint. Any vaccine trial should include regular antigen testing every three days to test contagiousness to pick up early signs of infection and PCR testing once a week to confirm infection by SARS-CoV-2 test the ability of the vaccines to stave off infection. Prevention of infection is not a criterion for success for any of these vaccines. In fact, their endpoints all require confirmed infections and all those they will include in the analysis for success, the only difference being the severity of symptoms between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Measuring differences amongst only those infected by SARS-CoV-2 underscores the implicit conclusion that the vaccines are not expected to prevent infection, only modify symptoms of those infected.

It may well be true that these vaccines, to some degree, do protect against infection, but (to use a club brandished against those who recommend studying ivermectin) no clinical studies, to my knowledge, have established that, or have established the degree of that protection.

It’s certainly true that the world wanted these vaccines on the market on the fastest schedule possible. And it’s also true that they have saved a great many lives. Just look at the ratio of infections-to-deaths prior to the vaccine rollout, and the same ratio afterward (chart above).

But it is also true that it’s not just the unvaccinated who are infecting the vaccinated, since both vaccinated and unvaccinated can be Covid carriers and spreaders.

Which means that, even if the world were 100% vaccinated with these vaccines, the vaccinated who host the virus would provide ample breeding ground for variants.

In other words, with these vaccines as our only real defense, we may survive the virus living among us, but the virus among us may survive as well.

We all expect an effective vaccine to prevent serious illness if infected. Three of the vaccine protocols—Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca—do not require that their vaccine prevent serious disease[,] only that they prevent moderate symptoms which may be as mild as cough, or headache. [emphasis added]

If so, the unvaccinated are not responsible for that. Our global Covid strategy is.

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  1. dcrane

    The fact that so many people shame and demonize and tribally “other” those who are wary of the vaccines, despite being smart enough to know that this only reduces their likelihood of vaccinating (I’m thinking of my academic colleagues), strongly suggests that encouraging maximum vaccination is not their highest goal.

    1. Carolinian

      being smart enough

      Perhaps the problem is that we have a whole class of people who aren’t that smart, or rather not nearly as smart as they think they are. They are well trained at the best schools but function as computers without data since they lack experience of the real world beyond their closeted bubble. And this is the real failure of our educational system since Harvard doesn’t seem to have a course in Humility 101.

      1. TimH

        The people that protest at mask-wearers miss the contradiction in their thinking: they demand the freedom to not wear a mask, while protesting the freedom of others to wear one.

        I despair of people.

        1. Carolinian

          Examples of people who protest when others wear masks? Other than a few wackos…..

          My county is part of the current school mask mandate debate (by order of the state government). But nobody is saying that parents who wish are not allowed to send their children to school in masks. The debate is over making everybody do it.

          1. Gareth

            I had one person harass me in the grocery store for wearing an N95 earlier this year, so it does happen. His wife/girlfriend seemed put out by his behavior.

            1. Jack Parsons

              I have decided that the right comeback for someone in your face in public is:
              “No, I do not want to buy cocaine from you!”

              1. cnchal

                Thank you for that one. I will try and remember it instead of using logic.

                I have yet to be harassed for wearing a mask, but if I were I was going to say “I wear a mask so I don’t breath my shitty exhale into your face” then walk away, prepared for an attempt at a sucker punch to the back of my head.

          2. juno mas

            Making all the kids mask is needed to help reduce transmission. It’s not perfect…kids being kids… and no current vaccines available for those under 12. The number of pediatric hospitalizations for Covid is growing. The culprit is Delta variant.

            While vaccinations are not perfect they are reducing adult hospitalizations by a factor of 10. Nurses and doctors are relieved.

            The real problem with the Covid pandemic is that it is novel and containment is being constrained by all manner of personal politics. The virus doesn’t give a damn about our Freedoms; it will infect and mutate until it can’t.

            1. d w

              this says it all
              The virus doesn’t give a damn about our Freedoms; it will infect and mutate until it can’t.

              if we want to have some sort of resemblance of life before covid, we have to control

              otherwise it will never go away, but get worse

  2. marcel

    Also this:

    Having vaccinated people and transmission will select for a vaccine-evading virus variant, and you can start from scratch again.

    1. Ian Perkins

      If the vaccines don’t impact infections or transmission, or barely do so, how will they select for vaccine evasion? Someone, vaccinated or not, gets infected and passes it on – where’s the selection pressure? Masks and distancing, on the other hand, would be expected to select for more transmissible variants.

      1. Lupana

        Don’t masks and distancing stop transmission? If the virus doesn’t transmit then it doesn’t seem it can mutate – it would just die out, wouldn’t it? My understanding is viruses only survive and replicate in a host cell so it would seem the best way to get rid of this is to deny it host cells by masks and distancing and in some cases lock downs. The vaccines as they are now seem like they are more a way to lead some facsimile of normal but they don’t really address the issue that the virus is still here and replicating in both vaccinated and unvaccinated. What this will mean over time – who knows? I personally don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the government which seems more made to protect an economy than to save lives.

        1. Ian Perkins

          As i understand it, masks and distancing don’t stop transmission, they make it harder – thus favouring virus strains that are more transmissible.

          1. Brian Beijer

            It seems as though you’re saying that we are trading a short term benefit by masking and social distancing for a long term consequence of enhanced virulity of the virus. Would you suggest that it might be better (in the long run) not to mask and distance? I’ve seen this exact argument applied to the vaccines as they are non-steralizing. It seemed like a sound argument not to rush out these vaccines as they may create vaccine resistant strains like we might be seeing with Mu. I’ve not seen this about masking and distancing before. Do you think we are seeing these more virulent strains are occurring because we’ve been masking and diatancing and not because we’re using non-steralizing vaccines?

            1. Ian Perkins

              Would you suggest that it might be better not to mask and distance?

              No, just pointing out what seems to be a likely consequence of masks and distancing – selecting against less transmissible strains. And hoping someone will show my reasoning to be wrong!

              1. Lupana

                I’m still trying to mentally work this out. If the masks and distancing stop transmission then it can’t really mutate can it? I see what you’re saying – strains that infect people who are masked and distanced would survive to reproduce but masks and distancing stop spread at the same time ie deny hosts to the virus so as long as everyone does it, it shouldn’t matter…? It should still stop spread …?

                1. Ian Perkins

                  Masks and distancing DON’T stop transmission, or infectious aerosols or particles getting from one person to another, they make it harder. Less infectious strains might be ‘killed off’ if such measures drive their effective R-number below 1, leaving more infectious strains spreading. Similarly, if masks and so on reduce one strain’s Rt from 1.5 to 1.2, and another’s from 6.0 to 5.5, the second strain’ll probably ‘win’ and proliferate.

                  Would that ordinary masks did totally prevent transmission – we might not be worrying so much about vaccines!

              2. Susan the other

                Since all of the variants are in aerosol form, it stands to reason that masks are an equal opportunity form of protection. They lessen the amount of virus but they don’t prevent it. So that any strain can slip through and then be faced with the body’s defenses. The smaller the dose of virus, the better. Especially the highly contagious ones – so certainly a mask is a good thing against even the highly contagious variants. Looking at it from another angle, if we all wear masks and still get some small dose of highly infectious variants, we will all be able to fight off these viruses better because we had a smaller dose and our own immune systems will be able to withstand it.

              3. d w

                well natural selection favors that can reproduce. if virus type has A 1000 potential infections, while type D has the potential of 10,000, which one survives?
                so the fight against virus is to slow it down till there is less and less infections, cause viruses have only one reason to exist, thats to reproduce. they dont eat, or any other functions that life has. its about the most simple life form we know. they have been around for 100000+ years. some make it we can live, some we beat (polio…) some we did beat (measles) but has made a comback

                and the rule of thumb to stop the virus is you must 80+ % herd immunity. whether its by having the virus and surviving or a vaccine that triggers the body create the correct anti-bodies to fight the virus. so far in a nutshell we aint winning. so far there have been 41+ million that have the virus. of thse 32,485.345 have recovered (left the hospital)of those 676,926 have died (and we dont know why they died, IE, they got the virus, but why did it kill them as opposed to others…there was a theory that it was the elderly (turns out to badly wrong…..babies have died from it), or the sick/inform (not all who have died have had a heath issue…some were in fact extremely healthy). today we have about 10 million active cases.
                and since those under 12 cant have the vaccine yet, they are the most risk of getting the virus. and passing it on. one of my grand daughters has in fact done just that, her mom, her other grand parents have it (Or had it), so sending the kids to school in person, will just lead to more infections of their family members

          2. Lupana

            But in order to get through a mask or distancing, it seems the virus would have to mutate to become smaller to get through the masks or fly further to get past distancing – neither of which they are doing – or at least not that I’ve seen mentioned. What they are doing is mutating the spike protein which is what our vaccines and natural immunity (in part) are defending against. As long as the virus doesn’t get into a body, it can’t mutate and masks and distancing are meant to stop that.

            1. Ian Perkins

              the virus would have to mutate to become smaller to get through the masks

              No, it would need to produce more infectious particles, or to make those particles more likely to infect others. Masks don’t stop the virus getting to us, they only reduce the numbers – even the N95s used in hospital settings, though they’re much nearer 100% effective.

              1. Lupana

                Yeah, maybe I was thinking of it too simplistically. I’ve honestly reached the point where I just want to wake up and find this was all a bad dream. Unless that happens, maybe it’s an everything on the table – vaccines + masks + distancing + closing off international travel to stop all variants but ones that develop here . ? ?

                1. HotFlash

                  A therapeutic medication or several would be great, too, to prevent, um, deaths and such. If only there were some drugs or something that could alleviate the symptoms, or support the immune system, or something….

              2. Basil Pesto

                too simplistic. it will be harder to stop with masking if the virus is more transmissible, but the claim often made is that it would be impossible, yet no one has seriously tried it. It’s a technical question, and it would be best tried first at smaller scales first as proofnof concept, and scaling up. This seems preferable to me than throwing our hands up and saying “nope impossible”. But masking guidance has been universally poor since the beginning. In Asia now, while they were all over it at the start, it’s possible that their masking might still be widely in line with SARS1-era standard (ie good enough for wild type SARS2, but not delta+, and people may be unaware of safer masking techniques they can adopt – better masks such as user-friendly KN95 standard (I have a couple that are soft and relatively comfortable) for one. but even mask braces and double masking are very likely to help. The latter two are also relatively affordable, while better masking should be supplied by the state where possible.

                None of this is easy, of course not. Certainly not as easy as getting two jabs. The state has to do its part to make it as easy as possible. But it’s only going to get harder the longer we go twiddling our thumbs while professional realists (disastrously poor leaders in the pandemic thus far) assert what is and isn’t possible. As of right now lockdowns + best masking practice adopted as widely as possible seem to be to be our best hope, even at just controlling the virus to some degree, if not eliminating it.

                As I’ve reported repeatedly, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, masking standards in Melbourne are well out of date, and I’m still not sure that many people here realise that the virus is airborne. The attitude from leadership on this seems to be “whatever”. This is despite the fact that we know it can control transmission and eliminate disease on first principles. But we’ve completely abandoned it without asking any questions about how we could improve on this question, in part because miracle vaccines are on the horizon to save the day (ironically, while we have a mask mandate in Victoria and NSW right now, the US CDC’s actual current technical mask guidance is far superior to our own, with advice on mask bracing and double masking). And this despite the case numbers rising to dangerously hard to manage levels in NSW. Even if you don’t believe it will eliminate delta (which, again, there’s been precisely zero convincing proof of that I’m aware of, just handwaves and “nooo people will never go for it”, which I accept might be true right now in the US), we absolutely should be doing everything to reduce the R0 anyway.

                Fundamentally, the policy response to a more transmissible and harmful variant rocking up to Australia being “oh well, guess it’s time to neglect our proven and effective response to this disease and assume it can’t be suitably improved” is stupid beyond words.

                So trust me, anyone saying “lockdowns + mask mandates don’t work” and citing what’s happening in Australia as an example of this is making a specious argument (I’m not saying that this is what you specifically are doing, I’m just pre-empting anyone who might be thinking along these lines)

                As to masking driving virus mutation, it is far beyond my paygrade to offer any opinion on that so I’ll leave it to others. Honestly though, it seems we’ve been doing the virus every conceivable favour in this regard up to now anyway. If the virus dies out (which, as has been shown, is absolutely possible at a moderate scale with the right measures taken, which must include masking) or its prevalence drastically reduced, then it will continue to have abundant opportunities to mutate.

                1. Lupana

                  Agree with everything you say. I tend to think people would go along with any clear path out of this. The problem in the US has been the lack of a clear policy. Even now, Biden’s 6 point plan turns out to be vaccines…vaccines…and more vaccines plus some nebulous funds for school safety. How is that going to get us out of where we currently are???

                2. urblintz

                  Yeah. I remember literally screaming “MASK” and “ISOLATE” here, 18 months ago, over and over again, when the Fauci masks-not-needed mantra was so popular. There was one other commenter trying to make the same point, maybe two. We were right. We got crickets in response.

                  1. d w

                    i suspect that last year we were still trying to figure out how to deal with it (seems an earlier plan was ignored….back when we had a different threat…plus we dumped a lot of gear (masks,etc) a few years earlier),…and there was that other problem….just about every one knew the KN95 was the best mask…that most get buy (just not all of us)…but if we all bought all of the masks,,, what are doctors/nurses suppose tp use? a hazmat suit…or space suit??????

            2. Zsx

              the virus would have to mutate to become smaller

              No, mutation precedes any new effect/characteristic, and occurs more or less randomly (slight errors in translation), but certain mutations, such as ones that produce greater infectiousness, will be favored by certain conditions, and these will be more likely to reproduce (assuming they are able).

          3. Lupana

            I thought about it more and I don’t think it works that way. What a mask can stop depends on particle size not on what the the virus or whatever does once it gets through. I don’t really see how distancing, masking or ventilation are selecting for a more virulent or transmissible strain. Those should stop it from reaching a person which is the only venue within which it can do anything like mutate. It has to get in to the body to mutate and those disrupt transmission and thus mutation.

            1. BlakeFelix

              I think that they can favor more transmissible strains by keeping less transmissible strains from immunizing or killing people, leaving more people for the more transmissible strains to infect. But if done properly masks and distancing can also stop the transmissible strains and ideally kill them off, and slow their spread even if they are being selected for by mediocre mask use. And more transmissible strains are also favored by not masking and distancing, all other things being equal more transmissible strains will win out anyway.

    1. Ian Perkins

      The results may still be valid, but the study was largely before delta hit the UK, I think:
      In the vaccine study on COVID-19 transmission, UK researchers looked at 144,525 Scottish healthcare workers who were working from March to November 2020 and their 194,362 household members.
      and, from the study in question,
      The primary outcome was any confirmed case of Covid-19 that occurred between December 8, 2020, and March 3, 2021.

  3. Joe

    This is a bullshit post. It’s full of straw men and appeal to authority. You should be embarrassed to host it.

    1. Ahimsa

      Please contest some details, for example:

      Prevention of infection must be a critical endpoint. Any vaccine trial should include regular antigen testing every three days to test contagiousness to pick up early signs of infection and PCR testing once a week to confirm infection by SARS-CoV-2 test the ability of the vaccines to stave off infection. Prevention of infection is not a criterion for success for any of these vaccines. In fact, their endpoints all require confirmed infections and all those they will include in the analysis for success, the only difference being the severity of symptoms between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

      Measuring differences amongst only those infected by SARS-CoV-2 underscores the implicit conclusion that the vaccines are not expected to prevent infection, only modify symptoms of those infected.

      1. Ian Perkins

        their endpoints all require confirmed infections

        Did the trials require confirmed infections among the vaccinated? I thought most unblinded the trial when they had a certain pre-decided number of confirmed cases, then looked to see how those were split among the vaccinated and control groups.

        1. Yves Smith

          Please go look at the trials rather than speculate.

          Moderna did test all participants weekly for Covid but did not report on infections, only serious cases and deaths.

          Pfizer tested only if the participant called a study nurse to report symptoms, and then only if the nurse deemed a test to be warranted.

          So neither reported on cases, particularly asymptomatic cases. And Pfizer didn’t collect data on them.

    2. Glossolalia

      I’ve noticed this sort of anger from my friends in the liberal elite class (or their wannabe hangers on, at least). They’re increasingly angry that this isn’t all going away the way they were promised it would if they just got vaccinated. There will always be some people who remain unvaccinated though so I guess they’ll always have someone to blame.

    3. Guy Hooper

      Agree, Joe. One of the straw men is that the vaccine attacks symptoms like that is a bad thing. One of the symptoms is death. Very happy to get a shot in my arm to not die. Seems important.

        1. Yves Smith

          First, you brush off a real issue, that some hourly workers find it hard to the time off even to get a shot.

          Second, you are missing a point that readers here are well aware of: the mRNA vaccines, particularly the second dose, particularly for not-old people with decent immune systems, often produce an immune response that makes the recipient feel too ill to work for one to two days. One of our aides got a case of vasticulitis that sent her to the ER, as in chewed up the better part of a work day. I had one friend who was sick for ten days, including coughing so severely that as he put it, he felt like he was coughing his lungs out and thought about going to the ER. Again, that is something many workers cannot afford, either financially (the dent to their income) and the risk of being fired for not showing up.

      1. Dwight

        It’s not a straw man. Vaccine stopping transmission is premise of mandates on everyone, regardless of risk profile cases r prior infection.

    4. lambert strether

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  4. vlade

    – the quoted tweets, at least from what I see, are hitting minuscule audience. The most liked of them has 2.5k likes and 200 retweets. Tweeted by someone with 66k followers. So about 4% of them liked it. It doesn’t say _anything_ about how widespread this feeling is

    – the quote of “Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca do not require that their vaccine prevent serious disease, only symptoms.” This is actually contradicted directly int he text below, and moreover, the whole point (and data) show that they do work in preventing serious diseases. TBH, if I was able to get vaccinated and it would guarantee that for the rest of my life, even if I get CV, I will have no symptoms and suffer from no long-CV, I’d be first in the queue. I’m getting infected by tons of viruses all the time. I’m full of bacteria, including deadly ones (if they got into my bloodstream).

    – “Prevention of infection must be a critical endpoint”. While this is extremely desirable, the question is, whether it’s achievable (GM can comment better). Given the mutation rate, it very well may not be possible (there’s no vaccine for HIV, cold and any number of viruses, flu vaccine needs to be applied every year and works only against some strains etc. etc.), and the only way to eliminate virus is a hard lockdown. Which, in the US, is equivalent to starting a civil war (the population of anti-covid-measures and gun owners have massive overlap). Not gonna happen.

    Setting an impossible goal is not going to help anything or anyone.

    1. Ignacio

      I agree with the impossible goal but by reducing contacts between infected you can try to prevent large waves of Covid cases, spread of VOCs and possibly help to avoid worst case scenarios in which more transmissible strains become prevalent and some of these might result more virulent. To achieve this you have to combine different measures: testing and contact tracing (still not effective almost everywhere), masking, ventilating and some distancing. The incessant push for vaccination as the way back to normal (thus eliminating the other measures) is, IMO a big, an enormous mistake that can fire back in the near future.

      Another question is that many of the antivaxxers are also antimasking, antidistancing etc. As I understand it they are people that want the same as those who critisize them: back to normal (no masking, tracing, distancing etc) but without vaccinating. The problem is that you are confronting this with people that still believe in herd immunity and mistakenly blame those antivaxxers for not allowing such achievement. They are also trying to achieve an impossible goal (herd immunity). Large Covid outbreaks are occuring now here and there. In Europe you have large outbreaks now in a country that has the lowest vaccination rate in the region (Bulgaria, about 30%) but also in a country with close to the highest vaccination rate in the region (Ireland > 80%). If this is not proof that herd immunity is unachievable…

      1. BlakeFelix

        Well, I still believe that herd immunity might be possible, but not using just the vaccines we have and natural immunity. Using lockdowns and contact tracing and masking and vaccines I think that it may well be possible to drive Rt negative, which is basically what herd immunity is. It would take a much better effort than we have shown so far though, or a much better vaccine with much better uptake.

      2. eg

        Thanks, Ignacio — a lucid summary. I would add only that public health restrictions remain necessary to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed with COVID, rendering unviable the provision of other necessary health procedures.

      3. vlade

        Too late, but still.

        I meant the “impossible goal” for vaccine. As in there are no assurances that we can come up with a sterilising vaccine anytime soon, if ever.

        Which actually means that I strongly agree with you that the non-vaccine actions are super important.

        I wrote it before, but will again – I find it fascinating, how masks are treated “they help me” and vaccines “they help you”, when it’s really the other way around (one masks to help the others, and is vaccinated to drive their own serious risks down). No wonder we’re where we are *) when we can’t get even something as simple as this right.

        *) TBH, I get why there is interest in pushing it like that. It’s easier to persuade most people to take a long-term, unpleasant measure such as masks for their own benefit than for a benefit of others, while the vaccination is a much more temporary inconvenience (for many), so easier to sell it as “you’re doing it for the others”. The only problem is, that we get few masked, many vaccinated, a situation which is a prefect breeding ground for an vaccine-escaping virus.

  5. Brian Beijer

    people who are virulently anti-vaxx are being media-stirred to be even more anti-vaxx, because “freedom,”

    I am so sick of people stereotyping those who haven’t taken the vaccines currently available as “anti-vaxx”. I haven’t taken the mrna vaccines, and I won’t take one until long term studies have been completed. Unfortunately, the Swedish government didn’t offer the j&j vaccine. As soon as Novavax is available, i will take that vaccine. Why? Because it is not an mrna vaccine, AND it seems to be undergoing proper study before being rolled out to the public. I am curious to see how many people remain unvaccinated after Novavax comes out.

    1. MK

      Exactly. Getting the ‘vaccine’ was so that I didn’t have to mask anymore. And getting the J&J ‘vaccine’ was the only choice since it is like good ‘ole medicine – NOT mRNA which who knows where we’ll be with those in 5 – 10 -15 years from now. Imagine in 15 years everyone with the mRNA ‘vaccine’ is dead or dying from it, not Covid.

      1. Lupana

        I don’t think any of the vaccines available in the US anyway are ‘like good ‘ole medicine’. All of them count on your cells to make the piece of spike protein. It just varies in how they do it. One uses the DNA from the virus, the others use mRNA. Neither is a totally comfortable choice but not doing anything isn’t comfortable either. That’s just where we are. It’s not a good place at all ..

      2. Cuibono

        but one and done is no longer the deal in case you did not hear.
        boosters will be mandated too, and likely with an mRNA shot as the science shows it is so much better

      3. eg

        Whomever told you that getting the vaccine meant you wouldn’t have to wear a mask anymore didn’t understand that the vaccines are NOT sterilizing; either that or they had some other motive for spreading misinformation.

  6. MrBrokenRecord

    I agree that it’s not good for anyone to be staining every conservative voter, or voter who just can’t stand the DNC or Pelosi et al, as a bad person.

    However, if the University of Chicago is correct, there are about 20 million Americans of adult age (and I refuse to call them adults) who believe: 1 – The election was stolen from Trump, and 2- It is ok to use force to put Trump back in office. These people, IMO, are deplorables. I would also lump the GW deniers there, along with the people who spread disinformation about vaccines. I’m not in much of a mood to coddle any of them. Sometimes I think what this country really needs is a divorce.


    1. Darthbobber

      There are few propositions, no matter how absurd, that you couldn’t find 20 million Americans who would agree with them.

      How many assent to one or more thinly based conspiracy theories designed to claim that the 2016 election was illegitimate. “Stolen” if you will, and that the orange man was merely de facto president?

      And what does it say for our “authoritative, reliable” sources of info that ever larger segments of the public find strangers on the internet at least as reliable? Does this happen for no reason? Or in a vacuum?

      1. ambrit

        I also note that the “the election was stolen” meme was heavily promoted by the minions of a certain Lady Hillary ‘MacB’ Clinton. [Now that I have mentioned “The Arkansas Play,” I will go out on the front porch and turn around three times, widdershins.]
        I see a good deal more than 20 million ‘persons’ in America espousing that canard.

        1. Patricia

          It’d be easy enough to fix this hue&cry from both sides by checking how other countries do their balloting and then setting it up here. Such as paper ballots, hand-counted, for eg.

          If it was genuinely wanted on either side, I mean….

      2. Ian Perkins

        “However according to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of adults in the United States accept human evolution while 34 percent of adults believe that humans have always existed in their present form.” Wikipedia
        That’s a lot more than 20 million, even if evolution has become more accepted since that poll.

    2. urblintz

      Now imagine if Trump had won. Does anyone believe the same s^#$show would not be taking place, in one form or another, but with the roles reversed? Kamala the fraud was all out there, before the election, with her “I won’t take the vaccine if Trump tells me to” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmTPmA9hHVE) and here’s Biden the mummy promising, after he was elected, to not mandate either vaccines or masks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob3ER7fKeDs) while still tripping over “low bars” so low as to be half buried. The Democrats would still be screaming some version of their “hair-on-fire” partisanship, even if they begrudgingly took the vaccine. They’d be pointing out all the vaccine negatives in the same way the so-called “antivax” crowd does. They’d be pushing back against any and all “mandates” while talking about authoritarian overeach. Hell, Pierre Kory, a liberal Democrat himself (self-described Bernie supporter) might even be a liberal hero for his work with FLCCC (instead of denigrated, dismissed by “fine scientists” – nobodies really (Buzz Hollander?) who can’t approach their level of commitment, knowledge and experience with frontline care for the sick). And they’d be demanding lockdowns, not because of its potential to control the virus but because of its potential to upend a Trump economy…because that’s just how the Democrats roll.

      The politicization of this pandemic is abhorrent.

      Both sides.


      End of story.

      1. Screwball

        Without a doubt. And the people responsible have killed a lot of people, and still are via disinformation and down right propaganda.

        Nothing new really. People dying for profit has been a business model for quite some time (see opioid crises which still rages today and of course war).

      2. Mo's Bike Shop

        Yes. What if this were Trump mandating dosage with hydroxychloroquine?

        Try reading ‘You will take the injection for the good of the people’ without a Cliche German Movie Accent in your head.

        Vaccine mandates has taken Return to Afghanistan off the top of Google News. All I saw today were humanitarian stories. I’m beginning to suspect that’s the only plan here, not the failures ahead in implementation or fallout. Failures such as the second Trump admin, or the like. This could go all Grover Cleveland for voters who don’t twitter.

      3. cnchal

        > End of story.

        That’s just it. There won’t be an end any time soon. We are almost two years into this and my basic assumption is we have another eight to go, because politics and greed trumps “””science”””, and I hope to be wrong but eight to go may seem a bit optomistic these days.

        Bunker futures are hotter than ever.

    3. dcrane

      I guess I’m one of your 20 million “non-adults”. I believe the election was stolen from Trump, and I don’t have to point the finger at fraudulent mail-in/drop-box ballots even though those might have been used. It was stolen in the months before as Big Tech worked furiously to suppress the spread of news unfavorable to Biden, with help from a corrupt “intelligence community” and their unsubstantiated “Russian disinformation” rumormongering. Right-wing news sources like Breitbart were suppressed in searches, and MSM “news” promoted (even though those sites spread at least as much “disinformation” like the Russiagate nonsense), aside from the huge thumbs on the social media scales. Only 43,000 votes needed to go the other way across three states (AZ, GA, WI) for a tied electoral college. I think the Biden laptop scandals alone would have erased that advantage. And that was just the beginning. I think you’re in for an unpleasant surprise in the coming months.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        That’s a different kind of stolen. The DemParty nomination was stolen in that different kind of way from Bernie Sanders by DemParty-version tricks of the sort you describe.

  7. Tom Stone

    As Japan and India begin to use Ivermectin as an approved treatment for Covid 19 we are likely to discover how efficacious it is before the end of the year.
    The above comments are revealing, the NC Commentariat consists of a skeptical and well informed aggregation of individuals and 20 months into the Pandemic this is what we have.
    Which demonstrates that the biggest problem in dealing with Covid is political, the quality of the information available is shamefully bad

    1. Eustachedesaintpierre

      Not so much beginning in relation to Utter Pradesh who used it widely during their first wave & then again during the 2nd. From what I have picked up they are expecting a 3rd wave which will be helped by the recent measures to protect supply & keep prices down. They used it in kit form with other Western undesirables like Vit D & C & it appears that very many of the 230,000,000 population were given it & it has become a household name. I reckon that there might be a major problem if the drug was withdrawn at this stage & as before with the huge drop in cases Western media will ignore it, & likely just turn up in no such protocol Maharashtra like last time, with their form of observational truth being the only one that counts.

      UP were initially hit very hard on both occasions due to an estimated 4.5 million migrant workers returning home – hopefully they will also get their recently developed vaccine into the mix too, as take up so far has been very low. It is hard to know what is really going on, but enough if you look hard enough to reveal that there is a large Indian elephant in the room – hopefully we will eventually find out the truth of it either way.

    2. johnnyme

      There is also Peru’s experience with using, then prohibiting the use of IVM. From Ivermectin: a multifaceted drug of Nobel prize-honoured distinction with indicated efficacy against a new global scourge, COVID-19 published just last week at nih.gov:

      In ten states of Peru, mass IVM treatments of COVID-19 were conducted through a broadside, army-led effort, Mega-Operación Tayta (MOT), that began on different dates in each state. In these MOT states, excess deaths dropped sharply over 30 days from peak deaths by a mean of 74%, in close time conjunction with MOT start date (Fig. 1B). In 14 states of Peru having locally administered IVM distributions, the mean reduction in excess deaths over 30 days from peak deaths was 53%, while in Lima, which had minimal IVM distributions during the first wave of the pandemic due to restrictive government policies there, the corresponding 30-day decrease in excess deaths was 25%.

      Nationwide, excess deaths decreased 14-fold over four months through 1st December 2020. After a restrictive IVM treatment policy was enacted under a new Peruvian president who took office on 17th November, however, deaths increased 13-fold over the two months following 1st December through 1st February 2021.

  8. Samuel Conner

    > even if the world were 100% vaccinated with these vaccines, the vaccinated who host the virus would provide ample breeding ground for variants.

    I’ve seen claims that it might be worse than this. It has been claimed (K Denninger, in links to his ‘blog that I’ve encountered at Automatic Earth) that widespread distribution of a non-sterilizing vaccine into a population with high levels of infection and transmission is likely to select for variants that escape the vaccine induced immune response.

    If that’s right, it looks like a colossal blunder to have relied on “symptom reduction for wild type-caused disease” as the primary public health response to the pandemic.

    1. Orthodox Agnostic

      This makes no sense if the argument is that a non-sterilizing vaccine should be avoided as a pandemic response because it might select for breakthrough variants. How does the alternative, not to vaccinate people on this basis, lead to a better outcome? A non-sterilizing vaccine that provides some protection from hospitalization or death still puts you well ahead of avoiding the vaccine because it isn’t 100% sterilizing. Clearly, vaccines alone aren’t the whole answer, but they will be a significant part of it, whichever strategy is chosen.

      1. tegnost

        Clearly, vaccines alone aren’t the whole answer,

        Contrary to almost all CDC recommendations and media reports such that making that claim amounts to weasel wording that inoculates the pro vaccine taking point. How do you feel about the mandate to vax without a mandate to mask regardless of vax status? Seems to me vaccinated unmasked are spreaders.

        1. Tim

          You are correct. Social distance first, if that is too undesirable then mask up. In all cases get vaccinated so you don’t end up in the hospital.

          Treating Vaccination requirements as if they will adequately stop the spread is misleading. They will help, but are not any more effective than a mask, and using both will much improve your odds.

    2. Skip Intro

      I believe that an almost sterilizing vaccine will strongly select for escapees, a vaccine with very little sterilizing ability, will exert very little selection pressure.

      1. Ian Perkins

        The current COVID vaccines seem to have next to no effect on upper respiratory tract viral loads, which puts them into your latter category I guess. You catch it, you pass it on*, and it never really ‘sees’ the vaccine.

        *less so with ventilation, masks and so on!

  9. Kris Alman

    I don’t think there’s great understanding of evolutionary pressures that vaccines may have on SARS Co-V2 mutations, but this recent article delves into how host-dependent editing enzymes may be involved.

    Host-dependent editing of SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 patients
    In conclusion, SARS-CoV-2 quasispecies variability was higher in patients with long-lasting infection, regardless of their severity status. Deep sequencing showed that most SARS-CoV-2 mutations present in the quasispecies were of the type produced by the action of ADAR1 editing enzymes, rather than substitutions inserted by the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (nsp12). Furthermore, ADAR1 editing preferably occurred during replication (dsRNA with a+ and −strand), as the effects were similar on both strands. Nucleotide editing by ADAR1 took place on a small fraction of replicating genomes, but often resulted in multiple editions in the same genome, which can compromise genome fitness and replication. Further study at the long term showed very few ADAR-like mutations fixed in the GISAID consensus genomes, which is consistent with the idea that ADAR1 edition acts in the manner of a moderate antiviral by causing hypermutations that impair viral fitness. Finally, based on our data, we suggest that most, if not all, SARS-CoV-2 mutations that can be transmitted and become fixed in the consensus sequence are likely nsp12-induced and are produced in patients with high viremia and lengthy infection.

    Additional basic science research suggests that intracellular glycosylation during translation of the RNA may affect transmission of the virus and could lead to immune escape.

    Glycosylation is a key in SARS-CoV-2 infection

    In summary, being an enveloped virus, SARS-CoV-2 envelope proteins display the glycans that are produced in the infected cells. As described above, the glycosylation of a given cell is dependent on the expression of glycosyltransferases, which are differentially expressed between cell types within the same individual, as well as present variations from individual to individual. These are important issues with biological and immunological implications. A large set of data is pointing towards the key role that glycans have in several aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 infection, COVID-19 disease progression and clinical approaches. These evidences highlight the importance of ensuring that glycans are considered when tackling this disease, particularly in the development of vaccines, therapeutic strategies and serological testing.

    Could mutations of SARS-CoV-2 suppress diagnostic detection?

    With this in mind, and as new variants of SARS-CoV-2 are identified, it is critical that diagnostic tests for the virus in wide use are regularly reconfigured. In particular, diagnostic tests configured to use a single monoclonal antibody, especially those targeting S protein, must revalidate the performance of the test against emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2 or consider adapting the assay to the detection of N protein using high-affinity polyclonal antibodies as critical detection reagents.

  10. Susan the other

    So what we are calling a “vaccination” is basically just a very specified treatment against Covid. It will not eliminate the disease. (And no, smallpox hasn’t been eliminated – it still pops up occasionally) We are all dancing with viruses. They recently regressed the Corona Virus DNA back to its assumed origin, some 20,000 years ago iirc. For all these millennia the corona virus has infected us innocuously as a cold or a bad cold. It took a “mutation” in its DNA to make it a pandemic killer. Why now Dr. Fauci? We’ve been getting along together so well? And we will continue to tango around with it forever. It doesn’t benefit Covid to kill us off. It prefers to have a reservoir of humans to live in and munch on. So since we can’t eradicate it, we can only live with it. And we should practice “disease resistance”. Like the Link on the “perky mice” who survived a virus without illness because they had enough iron in their systems to share. That was a wonderful little piece of science.

    1. Ian Perkins

      smallpox hasn’t been eliminated – it still pops up occasionally

      I don’t think it’s popped up anywhere for ages. You could argue it hasn’t been eliminated as in two laboratories still hold samples (there have been many calls for them to be destroyed), but the last known case was around forty years ago – a UK medical photographer via a university lab that had samples.

      1. Susan the other

        But maybe there’s more to that than a vaccination campaign. Think of the Native Americans and decimation by smallpox. But some of them survived and their “genes” are still living. Natural immunity isn’t a form of eradication so much a form of effective disease resistance. Which might even require smallpox to still be there, in a more symbiotic form. Long, long ago they fought smallpox in the Near East by pulverizing scabs and snorting the powder. But it came back again and again. Might be one reason to hang on to those last samples. The dormancy of smallpox today might well have as much to do with better nutrition and medicines as anything else.

    2. HotFlash

      It doesn’t benefit Covid to kill us off. It prefers to have a reservoir of humans to live in and munch on.

      Well, in theory, a parasite shouldn’t kill its host. Somehow, though, I don’t think that the virus plans long-term. Kinda like our billionaire class.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Bubonic Plague will still kill you if there’s an outbreak, and the from popping science I’ve read, it seems to have been around since the Stone Age.

        But BP has reservoirs in other species. Will we mandate deer inoculation?

  11. McWatt

    Just met a husband and wife who got Covid last year. Got their shots earlier this year.
    Got the variant last month with the husband in the hospital for three weeks. So many stories, so many different

    Remarkable times we live in.

    1. Tim

      Everything is gray and all probabilities. Our basic human biases are not leading us to the most effective solutions consistently as a result.

      We need leadership in government and society to shut up first about the unknowns. Get the probabilistic data, then interrogate the data critically, then provide a clear course of action that logically follows from the data, and explain it to the public.

      Instead we use our cognitive biases to develop a believe system in lieu of data, then spout off about it, and then ignore the data once it finally comes in, just to save face.

  12. dcblogger

    vaccination stations are being shut down by anti vax demonstrators
    https://www.google.com/search?q=vacination station closed down by anti vax demonstrators

    it is not simply that they won’t get vaccinated, they want to prevent the rest of us from getting vaccinated. I don’t think that they are assaulting vax stations because liberals on social media are being mean to them, and I don’t think that being nice is going to change this crowd.

    1. Lambert Strether

      No, it won’t. However, the confusion between activist ant-vaxxers and the vaccine hesitant (for example, women worried about their menstrual cycles or essential workers who can’t take time off) is really pernicious, and Biden just bought into it with his speech. Somehow the PMC hive mind has concluded that the unvaccinated are all their political opponents, and must be whipped into line.

      1. Itachi

        The distinction between activist anti-vaxxers and vaccine hesitant should be made more often in discussions on vaccination. Aren’t the number of activist anti-vaxxers relativity small? (This set seems to be disproportionately within the medical profession or “entrepreneurs’).

        Shouldn’t the response be then to advocate for time off for the vaccination? I think this is a better response than saying any sort of employment mandate is some sort of new police state or authoritarianism.

  13. Rick

    Thanks for posting this, the Haseltine article is gold. I had the same impression as a non-expert looking at the mRNA trial protocols back when.

    Interesting that Johnson & Johnson was the only trial that looked at severe disease and it’s now considered the poor relation to the magnificent Pfizer and Moderna. I’m happy I got the J&J before it got smeared with the ‘pause’.

  14. Scott

    I keep coming back to the same question – do these vaccines prevent infection or not? Based on Haseltine’s Sept 2020 referenced in the article, they do not prevent infection. However, based on an article Haseltine published in March 2021, they do.

    Moderna And Pfizer Vaccines Prevent Infection As Well As Disease: Key Questions Remain

    As fast-moving as this entire pandemic has been, it seems to rely on dated information to make decisions will lead to incredibly poor decision making.

    1. Yves Smith

      This is no ;longer valid. This was before Delta. Delta significantly escapes the vaccines.

      And it is separately of questionable relevance, since just based on vaccine availability, it also means this study was done shortly after health workers were vaccinated. Peak immunity is in the first two months. We are way past that time frame for most of the vaccinated.

  15. Cuibono

    the ratio chart hints at but does not by any means prove that the vaccines are saving lives (which they likely are quite well). A shift in the demographics to a younger cohort would do the same thing, as would better care , as would the culling of the most vulnerable early in the pandemic. correlation is not causation

  16. Eric377

    Obviously it is far from clear what is going to happen, but it’s possible a majority of the unvaxxed workers in the mandate categories decide that they are okay with the weekly test regime, instead of rolling up their sleeves. Then probably some of the Chamber of Commerce types start to not like it so much. I look around my community and see huge number of “help wanted” signs, so I just have a hunch that the unvaxxed worker community has some decent leverage right now.

    1. Alena Shahadat

      They found another incentive here for those who are fine with weekly testing: as of the first of October, the tests will be on your charge.

  17. Jack Parsons

    A theory and a prediction: the theory is that since the emergency use waiver for the vaccines depended on there being no alternate treatment, HQC and Ivermectin had to suppressed and trash-talked. Now that Pfizer’s has been cleared, when MRNA’s vaccine is cleared there will be no more reason to suppress the alternatives.
    The prediction: after MRNA’s is cleared, the general smear of Ivermectin and in particular “horse paste” will continue on with its own Internet Inertia, but without institutional force. After 9-18 months, the FDA will follow suit.

    I’m not claiming this is a true theory, but a theory is only useful when it creates predictions.

  18. Schofield

    Given Covid transmits through the air like microscopic bullets and you can be asymptomatic with Covid after two jabs or even when you’ve had Covid it still needs to be said the American Constitution does not give you the right to be a random shooter by refusing to wear a mask or socially distance.

    Refuseniks need to recognize if things get bad they’ll be the first to be rounded up and sent to the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay like the lepers of old. In such camps encouragement will be given to inmates to socialise as much as possible.

  19. Alena Shahadat

    Last week, I took a photo of a vaccination campaign poster on a Geneva public transport bus. It said : #rumor : one can be vaccinated an get covid. So vaccination serves for nothing.

    #fact: In Geneva, more then 90% of infected are not vaccinated.

    I don’t know where the figures came from. And I thought: yea duh! Because the vaccinated never get tested! Presumably, those 10% above maybe the folk that had to be hospitalised for heavy symptomatic cases. I don’t see a scenario here in Switzerland where vaccinated people get regularly tested.

    And people get very agressive reactions agaist those who don’t want to get vaccinated, as if finally we knew who to blame so heap it on them.

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