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Some Covid Links

Tweet [1]

As evidenced by her latest column, one of the most sensible and forceful voices throughout Covid hysteria has been, and continues to be, the Telegraph‘s American-born columnist Janet Daley [2]. Two slices:

Have you begun to suspect that at least some of the people who have been responsible for seeing us through, or reporting on, the Covid crisis are unwilling to let it go? Not the virus itself, of course. It would be quite wicked to suggest that anyone in a position of power or influence wanted the illness to continue as a real threat.

So no, it is not the existence of Covid-19 as a disease that is begging to be prolonged but the state of emergency [3] that accompanied it. And it is not just those actually in charge of the policy who seem to be touched by this reluctance to accept its end: the sense that public discipline and social control were being imposed on justifiable grounds had an appeal not only to those who were doing the enforcing but, it is now clear, to an alarmingly large percentage of the population.

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The motives of those self-interested lobbies who would love to prolong these indulgences are perfectly rational. They are not the people who should worry us. Nor are the actual engineers of these restrictions who may (or may not) always have acted in good conscience, seeking to impose and maintain whatever limitations on normal behaviour they could plausibly defend as necessary to reduce the risk. Presumably they would say that so many of those restrictions which we now understand to have been pointless, contradictory and even absurd could be defended on the grounds that they helped create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety which was conducive to compliance with the rules that actually did have some point.

This is the heart of the matter, the truth which must not be allowed to slip away in the moment of euphoria that comes with the return of our liberties [4]. Fear and anxiety were deliberately induced in order to create what amounted to a national neurosis. (Or something worse – many of the habits we were forced to adopt in avoiding personal contact or physical proximity were nothing less than a simulacrum of psychosis.)

What is becoming alarmingly clear is how many people welcomed this assumption of unprecedented state power. This might have been understandable at the most extreme point of the epidemic, especially before the arrival of a clutch of effective vaccines. But why, as the risk has demonstrably declined to a level that is comparable with commonplace respiratory diseases, is there still a significant section of the population longing to keep such unnatural limits and restrictions on their own – and everybody else’s – lives?

The inescapable conclusion is that there is, at the deepest level of human consciousness, a totalitarian impulse which is beyond the reach of rational argument or moral conscience. The desire to be taken care of, to have decisions taken out of one’s hands, to be relieved of the responsibility for making choices is an ineradicable feature of our condition which has been exploited by every dictatorship in history.

“Austria’s equivalent of the House of Commons voted yesterday in favour of the new Government proposals to fine the unvaccinated the equivalent of thousands of pounds.” [5]

Jeffrey Tucker asks if knowledge of natural immunity is “lost knowledge.” [6]

New Zealand seems still to be pursuing the impossible goal of zero Covid [7]. A slice:

New Zealand [8] will make household contacts of Covid cases isolate for 24 days under harsh new rules brought in to combat an impending Omicron [9] outbreak.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern [10] has brought in the strict measures as the country battles to stay Covid Zero despite the threat of the highly contagious mutant strain.

But critics say the lengthy quarantine period is ‘unworkable’ and will lead people to avoid getting tested.

Also still in pursuit of the impossible goal of zero Covid are the authoritarians in China [11].

Vinay Prasad, writing at UnHerd, defends Joe Rogan and the value of openly discussing and debating the merits of vaccines. [12] Two slices:

Last week, a group of scientists, doctors, and academics published an open letter [13] calling on Spotify “to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform”. Specifically, they were objecting to two recent episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast, in which he interviewed the prominent vaccine sceptics Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone. “By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions,” the letter claimed, “Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”

I am an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, as well as a practising physician, and I firmly believe that it would be a mistake to censor Rogan under the guise of combating “misinformation”.

Rogan is not a scientist, and, like everyone else, he has his biases. But he is open-minded, sceptical, and his podcast is an important forum for debate and dialogue. It is not enough, moreover, to simply dismiss Malone and McCullough as conspiracy theorists. They are controversial and polarising figures, but they do have real credentials. Malone is a physician who has worked in molecular biology and drug development for decades, while McCullough was, until recently, an academic cardiologist and researcher.

Both speakers made accurate and useful points on Rogan’s podcast — as well as unsupported, speculative, alarmist, and false ones. The correct way to deal with incorrect ideas in biomedicine, if they rise to a level of prominence that warrants rebuttal, is to rebut them.

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At times, Malone refers to accurate studies, but I worry the audience draws the wrong inference. Malone, for instance, claims that natural immunity is six to 13 times more effective than the vaccine at preventing hospitalisation and 27 times more effective against developing symptomatic disease. I assume he is referring to this August 2021 study from Israel [14]. This study does indeed suggest that natural immunity is more protective than vaccines against the Delta variant, though it also suggests that natural immunity plus a single vaccine dose is more protective than natural immunity alone.

While this has implications for the number of doses a Covid-19 survivor might consider getting, it should not be misconstrued to mean that infection is preferable to vaccination for an adult who has yet to experience either. Vaccination is almost surely preferable for most un-immune adults.

TANSTAFPFC (There Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Protection From Covid.) [15] (HT Martin Kulldorff [16])

Jay Bhattacharya tweets [17]:

That the powers-that-be in the developed world did not declare the pandemic over after a sufficiently large fraction of the vulnerable population was vaccinated has mystified me for almost a year. Unfortunately, zero covid fanatics and immunity deniers got their disastrous way.

Todd Zywicki tweets [18]:

If they want to encourage people to get vaccinated because they think [vaccination] protect[s] against serious illness, then fine. But continuing to make false assertions about transmission that not even the companies themselves will make… well, I just don’t get it. It is just plain weird.

In Britain, the vaccine mandate for National Health Service personnel has been delayed [19].

The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board calls on the Biden administration to rescind all of its abominable vaccine mandates [20]. Two slices:

The Biden Administration said Friday it will appeal a federal judge’s injunction against its vaccine mandate for federal employees. But why bother? The White House says 98% of federal workers have complied. Increasingly the Biden mandates seem more about punishing than protecting people.

President Biden would seem to have stronger legal grounds for a mandate on federal workers than on private ones. The Administration argued that civil-service laws give the President carte blanche authority over the federal workforce, especially when to protect the public.

But as Judge Jeffrey Brown explained in his ruling, Congress granted the President limited authority to regulate “the conduct” of executive branch employees. Getting vaccinated isn’t workplace “conduct.” The judge also noted that the public harm from firing unvaccinated workers who provide vital government services exceeds the negligible public-health benefit.

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While protecting against severe disease, vaccines don’t prevent infection and transmission. Why won’t the Administration back down even following legal defeat?

Perhaps because vaccine mandates and coercion are popular with progressive voters. A Rasmussen poll last week reported that 59% of Democratic voters would support a government policy confining the unvaccinated to their homes, except for emergencies. Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters also thought the governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of vaccines on social media.