The CDC still describes breakthrough infections as “rare,” although it has stopped keeping track of cases with minimal or moderate symptoms, focusing instead on hospitalizations and deaths. As of July 19, it had counted 5,601 hospitalizations and 1,141 deaths involving vaccinated Americans. Those cases represent a tiny fraction of all COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths: The U.S. at that point was seeing more than 3,500 hospitalizations per day and had recorded a total of more than 260,000 deaths since the beginning of this year. Vaccinated people, in other words, accounted for less than 0.5 percent of COVID-19 deaths during that period. Based on data from January through May 2021, the CDC found that less than 3 percent of hospitalizations involved patients who had been fully vaccinated.
It’s all terribly confusing, this world in which experts are hauled onto the news to tell us what is going to happen only to contradict themselves a few days later. In this way Ferguson has become the contemporary equivalent of the economist John Maynard Keynes (who infamously predicted we’d be enjoying a 15-hour working week by now). In 1961, asked by US Congress to report on the “Impact of Automation on Employment”, Nobel-winning economist Paul Samuelson noted the difficulty of such predictions. “If Parliament asked six economists for an opinion on any subject they always got seven answers,” he noted. “Two from John Maynard Keynes.”
Holding multiple, apparently contradictory views, is no bar to greatness, such stories tell us. Which means that neither is being wrong. And Ferguson is no stranger to that, either.