Martin Kulldorff reviews two studies on Covid immunity. Here’s his opening:
How effective is immunity after Covid recovery relative to vaccination? An Israeli study by Gazit et al. found that the vaccinated have a 27 times higher risk of symptomatic infection than the Covid recovered. At the same time, the vaccinated were nine times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid. In contrast, a CDC study by Bozio et al. claims that the Covid recovered are five times more likely to be hospitalized for Covid than the vaccinated. Both studies cannot be right.
I have worked on vaccine epidemiology since I joined the Harvard faculty almost two decades ago as a biostatistician. I have never before seen such a large discrepancy between studies that are supposed to answer the same question. In this article, I carefully dissect both studies, describe how the analyses differ, and explain why the Israeli study is more reliable.
The city’s cultural and culinary life nearly died as we sheltered in place. It’s coming back—in its own socially distanced, masked, and mandatory vaccine-verified way—but for many small businesses there will be no second life. Shutting down outdoor dining without any grounding in “science, evidence, or logic,” (as one judge ruling against the forced closures put it) ended the California dream for many restaurateurs.
Personalized recommendations are particularly important for the more than 100 million Americans who have already recovered from Covid. Their immunity and risk of inflammation from vaccines is variable. But when health officials refuse to take account of natural immunity, they neglect the needs and concerns of a large segment of the population and give the public a reason to think experts are not conveying the whole truth.
Suddenly there emerged a cadre of pandemic experts who recommended—then quickly required—extreme and unprecedented things. People shouldn’t see their parents, visit friends, hold funerals or hug. We could never shake hands again. Wearing masks was useless! We MUST mask, both indoors and out. There were hotlines set up in many cities—including mine—for citizens to report their neighbors who did not comply. Police were sent to break up a Jewish funeral in New York City.
Day after day, media rained down information about who was to blame. Millennials, spring breakers, Southerners, motorcyclists. Scientists who proposed different theories were muffled, derided, sidelined. They were deemed dangerous, their ideas “misinformation.” To question was sacrilege.
The year of COVID continued with a drumbeat of warnings nationwide. Sanitize your mail with bleach and a UV light. Don’t wear a mask; you must wear a mask. Buy a pulse oximeter. Stock up on Tylenol, vitamin D, Pepcid. Form a pod. Get an air filter. Whisper so you don’t spit. Stand six feet from others—no, 10. Wear gloves. Put on goggles because the virus can get in through your eyes. Don’t pet the dog. Keep your teenager in the garage. Isolate a sick toddler in your basement with a bell. Wear two masks! Stay out of restaurants, nail salons, gyms. Open the windows. Close the schools.
Finally, the vaccines came and they seemed, at first, to be a miracle. But still there were certain things you weren’t allowed to discuss, like side effects, transmissibility, and natural immunity. The shots were immaculate and all-powerful! Then suddenly … they were not. Vaccinations were undone by the unvaccinated; they couldn’t save the faithful because of the sinful. And the drug alone wasn’t enough. True believers wore a mask as well and those who did not were causing the cure to fail.
Whatever the experts said on television became reality, became “science.” Meanwhile people died and died and died and just as the ongoing tragedy of autism of a child was somehow the mother’s fault, over and over again, doctors and officials blamed their audience of 3 billion for the disease. The more the cures failed, the greater the fault of the public. The flaw was never in the remedy, but in those who failed to “behave” and thereby brought the plague upon themselves.
In the end, what I believe doesn’t really matter. History will out. Ten or 15 or 25 years from now there will a reckoning, deep research, a spate of biographies and memoirs from the people who spent 2020-21 under the sway of gurus. News media that trumpeted their wisdom and methods will issue brisk, researched, documentary-style reports. People will swarm out of the shadows to claim they didn’t really believe the experts embodied science and were secretly resisting all along; even those who preached their gospel and strong-armed the public’s obedience will insist they actually did not.