Strangely enough, the best reason for the still unvaccinated to get vaccinated against Covid-19 today is the fading efficiency of the vaccines.
Because though a New England Journal of Medicine study is reporting the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can drop to 20 percent over the course of five to seven months, the effectiveness in stopping severe infections remains high.
“Effectiveness against any severe, critical, or fatal case of Covid-19 increased rapidly to 66.1 percent by the third week after the first dose and reached 96 percent or higher in the first two months after the second dose; effectiveness persisted at approximately this level for six months,” the peer-reviewed study said.
There are two conclusions to be drawn from the study, and the first is obvious:
The new nRNA vaccines are highly protective against death in the here and now.
The second conclusion is not so obvious but possibly more important:
With the vaccine cutting the infection rate by only 20 percent, it might slow but most certainly will not stop the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.
The idea of eliminating SARS-CoV-2 now appears uniformly dead. New Zealand, which did a superb job of isolating itself and once hoped to go disease-free, has now abandoned the elimination scheme.
“The elimination strategy has operated from March 2020 until now and has enjoyed huge support here,” Michael Baker, an University of Otago epidemiologist who helped develop the strategy told The BMJ (former the British Medical Journal). “It gave New Zealand the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate in the OECD, a high level of freedoms, and above-average economic performance. If we had experienced the same mortality as the United Kingdom (around 2,000 per million) we would have had 10,000 deaths. Instead we had 28 (five per million).”
The problem is that the policy isn’t sustainable. New Zealand’s border closure devastated a tourism industry once responsible for about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The country is now counting on vaccinations to solve its problems.
As Baker told The BMJ, “Singapore has better than 90 percent vaccination, the same place we want to end up. Colleagues there are reporting about 3,000 to 4,000 cases a day, with probably twice that many going under the radar because vaccination is much less protective against infection than against severe disease.
“It looks like Delta (the Delta variant) will work its way through the whole of Singapore’s population, with the infections effectively taking the place of boosters. But they’re still kind of OK because they’re 90 percent vaccinated. So they’re seeing about five deaths a day. It’s worth noting that even this low rate would double New Zealand’s (total) pandemic death toll in one week.”
But that appears to be a price New Zealand has now decided it is willing to pay to keep its economy moving forward.
In Kiwi country, as in other places where lockdowns were instituted, there have been criticisms of the policy. Last month, former NZ prime minister Sir John Key accused his successor of trying to run a “smug hermit kingdom.
The Singapore model
As in Singapore, one might expect vaccination could increase the spread of Covid-19 given that some of the vaccinated become asymptomatic carriers of the virus and others, though symptomatic, might be inclined to dismiss the symptoms of a Covid-19 infection – fever, cough, body ache, fatigue – as a common cold or allergies.
Consider it the vaccination factor (VF) : “I’ve got the sniffles, but I’ve been vaccinated. So it’s probably not the Covid. I’m just going to go about my business as unsual.
One can only wonder how this might play out in the ever-worsening culture war roiling the U.S. if the anti-vaxxers decide the vaxxers are more of a threat to them than the other way around.
Singapore did that. The vaccines saved lives but didn’t stop the spread, but there are still those attached to Fauci’s belief that more vaccination in this country will stop the spread.
Let’s all now argue over this.
People are still warring over masking in Anchorage as if it made a significant difference. Masks might help a little.
A much-discussed study out of Bangladesh indicated a 9.3 percent reduction in infections, but that could easily be wiped out by people masking up and thinking they are safe.
Today’s reality is that the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls map of Covid-19 transmission in the U.S. is painted red from coast to coast with high to substantial transmission rates whether in places where masks are mandated or not, or vaccination rates are high or not.
The few – very few – spots of blue that indicate low transmission rates highlight America’s widest, wide-open spaces where the inadvertent social distancing stops the spread.
- Hudspeth County, Tex., the third-largest county in the Lone Star state and hope to fewer than 4,500 people. Vaccinations there are low enough that the CDC lists them as “NA.”
- Esmeralda County, Nev., in the southwest corner of Silver State with a vaccination rate of 40.5 percent, according to the CDC. It is reported to be the least populated county in Nevada which, outside of the greater Las Vegas area, is virtually unpopulated.
- Custer County, Mont., in the southeastern part of that state with a 38.7 vaccination rate. It has a population density of 3.1 people per square mile. That’s lower than Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Borough at 4.3 people per square mile or the Kenai Peninsula Borough at 4 people per square mile.
- The Yakutat City and Borough in Alaska has a 78.9 percent vaccination rate plus a lot of open space. The population density there is reported as 0.07 people per square mile.
Space for people to easily stay away from each other is what the few blue spots on the map share in common.
The closer people get to each other the higher, in general, the infection rate. This is how contagious diseases work.
And the new coronavirus has proven highly contagious and highly adaptable. It is now quite obvious it’s not going away. It is destined to outlive the warring over it.
Peace in our time?
So maybe it would be good if the arguing about masks and vaccines ended sooner rather than later.
If wearing a mask makes you feel better, wear a mask. If it doesn’t, don’t.
And the same for vaccination. The data is pretty clear that the vaccines will seriously reduce your risks of a serious infection even if their long-term consequences remain unknown.
For better or worse, they underwent an accelerated review. Some have been arguing for this for all new medical treatments for some time. And the vaccines do appear safe, but the long-term consequences of any drug are impossible to predict.
Some people are happy to introduce foreign substances into their bodies; others aren’t.
And for many, if not most, hypocrisy reigns. Marijuana, a substance once considered so dangerous it was outlawed, is now considered fine.
Tobacco, once considered fine, is now frowned upon as a cancer-causing drug even though it is a totally natural substance – not something manmade.
And then there is the bisphenol A (BPA) leaching out of plastic water bottles and the linings of metal food and soda cans.
“Tests have shown that more than 93 percent of the general population has some BPA in their bodies,” the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) contends. “In animal studies, exposure on par with the amount of BPA most of us now have in our bodies has been shown to cause health abnormalities….such as lower sperm counts, hormonal changes, enlarged prostate glands, abnormalities in the number of chromosomes in eggs,
and pre-cancerous changes in the breast and prostate. It also has been associated with obesity and insulin resistance – a condition that commonly precedes the development of diabetes.”
And obesity and diabetes have, in turn, been linked to more severe and sometimes deadly Covid-19 outcomes. It’s all a very complicated picture.
That different people would have different opinions on how to deal with all of this ought to be understandable to everyone, but apparently this is not the case even if tolerance of different opinions is supposed to be the cornerstone of a democratic government.
So, back to the jihads.