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Some Covid Links

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I’m eager to read the hot-off-the-press The Great Covid Panic: What Happened, Why, and What To Do Next [2], by Paul Frijters, Gigi Foster, and Michael Baker. Here’s Martin Kulldorff’s endorsement:

A tour-de-force on how the pandemic response was driven by fear, crowd thinking, big business and a desire for control, rather than by sound public health principles. This is bound to be a classic.

Sunetra Gupta explains that there is no good case for mass booster shots [3]. Two slices:

But should we be vaccinating those who are at negligible risk? Before entering into arguments about the ethical or political dimensions of this question, we should ask ourselves what purpose it serves – because, if it is futile, the discussion should simply end there.

Vaccines typically do not outperform natural immunity, so it should come as no surprise that Covid vaccines do not offer long-term protection against infection. At the same time, we can be confident that they will continue to work well to prevent severe clinical outcomes [4]. The role of these vaccines is to offer protection to the clinically vulnerable; to foist them upon those who are at negligible risk in the hope of augmenting herd immunity is illogical.

Will boosters achieve what two doses could not? For those who are extremely vulnerable and show no evidence of mounting a significant immune response after two doses, it is entirely reasonable to attempt a third dose.

But it can be to no-one else’s individual gain to submit to a third jab, having already reduced the risk of severe disease (which was very small in the first place for most) by receiving two inoculations.

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And perhaps next time – whether it be because of an aggressive new variant or an entirely new pathogen – we will hesitate to inflict the same damage through lockdowns while we wait for the vaccines to arrive, and recognise that the combination of natural immunity and vaccine-induced protection of the vulnerable offers the most robust and humane solution to the problem.

Billy Binion is correct: vaccine passports should be neither mandatory nor forbidden [5]. A slice:

It’s true that vaccines offer a great deal of protection [6] from infection, hospitalizations, and deaths. The breakthrough case rate post-vaccination sits [7] below 1 percent, while fatal encounters hover around 0 percent. You are more likely to get struck by lightning than get a fatal case of COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine.

But the efficacy of the drug does not explain why a police-enforced mandate to put a vaccine into everyone’s bodies enhances civil liberties. That’s particularly relevant when considering the refusal to get vaccinated almost always hurts the refuser, save a few tragic cases.

But haven’t we always required vaccinations? “Schools, health care facilities, the U.S. military and many other institutions have long required vaccination for contagious diseases like mumps and measles that pose far less risk than the coronavirus does today,” add Cole and Mach. That’s true: Mandating vaccines for schoolchildren strikes me as sensible, as they don’t have agency, and are forced by law to attend public school with other children who don’t have agency. And employers—including the government—also have the right to mandate vaccinations and to set the terms their employees must abide by. If employees don’t like them, they can find work elsewhere.

Yet government as the employer is different than government as the monopoly on power.

Hannah Betts encourages people to get over their Covid paranoia and return to going about life as normal, including shaking hands [8]. A slice:

In the latest confirmation that we are encountering The End of Days, two-thirds of jobseekers have declared themselves reluctant to shake an interviewer’s hand amid continuing paranoia regarding Covid germage. Recruitment company Randstad argues that the legions of guides as to how to execute a winning grasp may now become redundant.

Julia Hartley-Brewer talks with Carl Heneghan about the media’s on-going scare-mongering over Covid [9].

Manfred Horst takes a close look at U.S. mortality data for 2020 [10].

The Atlantic‘s Coner Friedersdorf explains, with understatement, that “Australia traded away too much liberty. [11]” Three slices:

Up to now one of Earth’s freest societies, Australia has become a hermit continent. How long can a country maintain emergency restrictions on its citizens’ lives while still calling itself a liberal democracy?

Australia has been testing the limits.

Before 2020, the idea of Australia all but forbidding its citizens from leaving the country, a restriction associated with Communist regimes, was unthinkable. Today, it is a widely accepted policy. “Australia’s borders are currently closed and international travel from Australia remains strictly controlled to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” a government website declares [12]. “International travel from Australia is only available if you are exempt or you have been granted an individual exemption.” The rule is enforced despite assurances on another government website [13], dedicated to setting forth Australia’s human-rights-treaty obligations, that the freedom to leave a country “cannot be made dependent on establishing a purpose or reason for leaving.”
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Other states also curtailed their citizens’ liberty in the name of safety. The state of Victoria announced a curfew and suspended its Parliament for key parts of the pandemic. “To put this in context, federal and state parliaments sat during both world wars and the Spanish Flu, and curfews have never been imposed,” the scholar John Lee observed in an article for the Brookings [14]Institution [14]. “In responding to a question about whether he had gone too far with respect to imposing a curfew (avoiding the question of why a curfew was needed when no other state had one), Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews replied: ‘it is not about human rights. It is about human life.’”

In New South Wales, Police Minister David Elliott defended the deployment of the Australian military to enforce lockdowns, telling the BBC [15] that some residents of the state thought “the rules didn’t apply to them.” In Sydney, where more than 5 million people have been in lockdown for more than two months, and Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city, anti-lockdown protests were banned, and when dissenters gathered anyway, hundreds were arrested and fined, Reuters reported [16].
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Because of its geography, Australia is a neighbor and an observer of authoritarian countries as varied as China and Singapore. But its own fate, too, may turn on whether its people crave the feeling of safety and security that orders from the top confer, or whether they want to be free.

Martin Kulldorff on Twitter [17]:

COVID restrictions have been rigging the game for too long – driving down health care, harming workers, hurting children, and stifling public debate. Time to rein them in.

Some judges in the U.S. are weaponizing Covid vaccines [18]. (DBx: This disturbing development is one of many that should have been, but apparently wasn’t, anticipated by the many people who reported on, or wrote about, Covid’s dangers without putting those dangers into proper context.)

Jay Bhattacharya talks again with David Brody about Covid and lockdowns [19].