Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on January 24, 2022

in Current Affairs, Legal Issues, Media, Risk and Safety, Science, Seen and Unseen

Harvey Risch, Jay Bhattacharya, and Paul Alexander call for an immediate end to the Covid emergency. A slice:

We don’t mean that the virus is gone – omicron is still spreading wildly, and the virus may circulate forever.  But with a normal focus on protecting the vulnerable, we can treat the virus as a medical rather than a social matter and manage it in ordinary ways. A declared emergency needs continuous justification, and that is now lacking.

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Even in places with strict lockdown measures, there are hundreds of thousands of newly registered omicron cases daily and countless unregistered positives from home testing. Measures like mandatory masking and distancing have had negligible or at most small effects on transmission. Large-scale population quarantines only delay the inevitable. Vaccination and boosters have not halted omicron disease spread; heavily vaccinated nations like Israel and Australia have more daily cases per capita than any place on earth at the moment. This wave will run its course despite all of the emergency measures.

Until omicron, recovery from Covid provided substantial protection against subsequent infection. While the omicron variant can reinfect patients recovered from infection by previous strains, such reinfection tends to produce mild disease. Future variants, whether evolved from omicron or not, are unlikely to evade the immunity provided by omicron infection for a long while. With the universal spread of omicron worldwide, new strains will likely have more difficulty finding a hospitable environment because of the protection provided to the population by omicron’s widespread natural immunity.

It is true that – despite emergency measures — hospitalization counts and Covid-associated mortality have risen. Since mortality tends to trail symptomatic infection by about 3-4 weeks, we are still seeing the delta strain’s remaining effects and the waning of vaccine immunity against serious outcomes at 6-8 months after vaccination. These cases should decline over time as delta finally says goodbye. It is too late to alter their course with lockdowns (if that were ever possible).

Todd Zywicki, Jeffrey Singer, and Ilya Shapiro argue that the “OSHA vax mandate is also arbitrary because it ignores natural immunity.” A slice:

Universal vaccine mandates are irrational in ignoring naturally acquired immunity from infection and recovery, which has come to be referred to as “natural immunity” in public discussion. This single‐​minded focus on vaccination as the exclusive means to acquiring immunity is largely novel. Contrary to conventional belief, states typically do not have “vaccine” requirements for children to attend school or any other purpose; they require evidence of immunity to certain viruses, whether through serological testing that evidences the presence of relevant protective antibodies or evidence of prior history “diagnosed or verified by a health care provider.” Virtually all countries in the Western world that impose some form of vaccine passport or mandate recognize natural immunity to Covid as qualifying for at least six months post‐​recovery.

If OSHA had reviewed the medical and scientific literature regarding the relative protective efficacy of natural immunity compared to vaccination, it is unlikely that the agency would be successful in establishing a factual basis for forced vaccination of Covid‐​recovered individuals. Given the trivial—if any—benefit to either the individual or the public from compelled vaccination of Covid‐​recovered individuals, that evidence of elevated adverse effects requires an especially high standard of proof by regulators to overcome.

Peter Attia explains why, on Covid, he’s pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine-mandate. (HT Dan Klein) Two slices:

There are many reasons I have heard put forth for why vaccines should be mandated, but one dominant argument stands out: Mandating vaccines will protect vaccinated people from unvaccinated people. This argument assumes three things:

  1. Vaccines DO NOT provide complete protection to the vaccinated (or else why would we care about what the unvaccinated do),
  2. Prior infection DOES NOT confer immunity on par with vaccination, and
  3. Vaccines DO prevent transmission of the virus (which is why we want the unvaccinated vaccinated, even if we don’t care about their health, per se).

Well, we’ve largely addressed the first point in an effort to get our facts straight on vaccine efficacy, and as we’ve seen, the basic assumption fueling this concern is valid at its surface: vaccines do not provide complete protection to the vaccinated. That is, they are not 100% effective at preventing infection, hospitalization, and death. In fact, although vaccines significantly reduce risk of detectable infection in the few months after vaccination, this protection drops precipitously ;once circulating antibodies decline, though protection against severe infections and death persists. Still, the protection isn’t absolute, and some risk of death remains even among those who have been vaccinated. However, the good news is that the risk is very low today. This was not necessarily the case 18 months ago, but three things have evolved over the past year-and-a-half to compound the risk-reduction of vaccines:

  1. Novel therapeutics have been developed specifically to treat COVID, including monoclonal antibodies, paxlovid, and molnupiravir, all of which reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by anywhere from 50% to 90%.
  2. At least one existing drug (fluvoxamine) has been repurposed to treat COVID successfully, reducing both hospitalizations and deaths by 66% and 91%, respectively, based on per protocol usage.
  3. Far more sophisticated critical care knowledge has evolved, specifically, to address COVID, including the use of dexamethasone and better strategies of ventilation.

The net result of these advances, layered on the benefits of vaccination, imply that a vaccinated person infected with COVID today is in a far less risky position than they were a year ago. And this says nothing of the fact that when it comes to the Omicron variant, which today accounts for >99% of document cases in the U.S., the risk goes down much further. Why? Because the data are unambiguously clear that Omicron is much less virulent than Delta and Beta and Alpha.

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It’s true that hospitals are stretched very thin right now with the n-th surge of COVID. But a few things are worth keeping in mind. During a bad flu season in the U.S. (recent examples would be 2017-2018, 2014-2015, and 2012-2013) it is common for 50,000 to 70,000 patients to be hospitalized at any one time across the country. This is not very different from what we see today (which says nothing of the fact that roughly half of the hospitalized COVID patients have incidental infections. That is, they are there for another reason, but also test positive for COVID). The difference, today, is that the hospital workforce is greatly reduced, relative to a bad flu season. Why is that? According to a survey by Morning Consult, approximately 18% of healthcare workers have quit their jobs since February 2020, while another 12% have been fired or laid off.

Furthermore, many people fail to realize that hospitals routinely function at 90% capacity in their ICUs. A reduction in workforce of even 10% is horribly disruptive to a system flying so close to the sun. It’s kind of like what happens when one of the OPEC nations, even if “only” producing 3% of the world’s oil, goes offline. Complete and total breakdown of the world’s energy markets ensues. It’s called a marginal supply problem.

Perhaps there was a rationale to mandate vaccines in healthcare workers 12 months ago, but given how many of them have quit or been fired for not being vaccinated, despite the fact that they undoubtedly have the highest rates of natural immunity of any profession, it seems illogical to continue to keep unvaccinated healthcare workers away because their immunity came from the actual virus, and not a vaccine.

Dan McLaughlin exposes the appalling bias that infects the latest Washington Post hit piece on Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Here’s McLaughlin’s conclusion:

There’s a reason many of us have compared DeSantis’s relationship with the media to the Road Runner constantly escaping Wile E. Coyote while the coyote’s traps explode in his face. Over and over and over, they have pushed stories that not only fail to land, but make the critics look progressively less credible the next time they come around.

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

U Penn students are organizing to protest the university’s booster mandate. Why have our best universities decided to embrace medical coercion for the covid vaccine, ignore the scientific evidence about benefits and harms, and eschew informed consent?

Jeffrey Tucker writes about yesterday’s protest in Washington, DC, against the Covidocracy. A slice:

The lockdowns gradually mutated into another attack on basic freedoms. The vaccines seemed like they might emancipate us from the panic and tyrannies but the beast of tyranny had already been unleashed. What seemed like a promising way of dealing with a disease revealed itself to be an unprecedented attack on individual choice and biology. People who have not complied have seen their lives utterly upended.

The Covidocracy is also being protested in Brussels – and defended there with brute force.

Barry Brownstein is correct: “Politicians and bureaucrats are especially dangerous when they believe they are anointed to coerce others.”

Josie Appleton reports on France’s new and stricter vaccine passports show-your-vaccine-papers-please diktat. A slice:

“To be a free citizen means to be a responsible citizen,” says Macron. “Duties come before rights.” You can only have rights (enter society) once you have done your duty (been vaccinated). The idea that duties come before rights means, at base, that the state comes before the citizen: the citizen only takes his place in society at the behest of the state.

This is not a matter of two shots and you are done. There is an ongoing demand for compliance, whereby your citizenship – and claim to ‘responsibility’ – is continually renewed. France has followed Israel in requiring a booster shot for vaccine passes to remain valid. Currently, you have seven months to get a booster, but this will shorten to four months in February. A French Government guide sets out the exact timetable expected of you: this is a jurisprudence of medically based citizenship. Every injection gives a ‘valid QR card’ that you can use to access social life; if you don’t get the booster in the required window then this QR code will expire. France has also followed Israel with a special offer (available until February 15th) allowing first-time jabbers to “benefit from a valid vaccine pass” after their first dose, so long as they get their second jab within 28 days.

The discounting of natural immunity is very telling. Natural immunity yields a wider spectrum of anti-bodies than vaccination and is likely to confer longer protection against infection and against new variants. And yet natural immunity has no political meaning. It is a strength that your body has gained through its own efforts, without involving the state or wider society. The ‘pass sanitaire’ that had been in operation in France since last summer recognised natural immunity and negative covid tests, alongside vaccination; the new ‘pass vaccinal’ recognises vaccination alone. The French Prime Minister now claims that natural immunity provides “only very little immunity”, while the source of genuine immunity is a “full course of vaccines”. This claim reflects more about the different political value placed upon these two routes to antibodies. One route is deemed “protective”, robust, and the other very weak, as something that “wanes”, only because one has a robust relationship with the state and the other relates to the state “only very little”.

Carole Malone decries Britain’s Covidocratic fear-mongers.

Writing in City Journal, Vinay Prasad mourns the perversion, over these past two years, of public health. Three slices:

Throughout the pandemic, public-health officials have omitted uncomfortable truths, made misleading statements, and advanced demonstrably false assertions. In the information era, where what one says is easily accessible and anyone may read primary literature, these falsehoods will be increasingly recognized and severely damage the field’s credibility. No doubt, officials and organizations promulgating them had a range of motivations—including honorable ones, such as wanting to encourage salutary choices. Yet the subsequent loss of institutional trust may result in harm that far outweighs any short-term policy objectives.

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For some reason, the U.S. seems committed to a one-size-fits-all vaccine policy despite abundant evidence to the contrary. This has led us astray in several respects.

First, consider boosters. The case for population-wide boosters, including for young, healthy adults, is tenuous and was contentious even among senior scientists. Marion Gruber and Phil Krause—the director and deputy director of the FDA—reportedly resigned over White House pressure to approve boosters for all. An initial advisory action approved boosters for older and vulnerable populations but was reluctant to grant a blanket approval for adults aged 18 and above. Slowly, booster approval expanded to 18 and up, and now to 12 and up.

But substantial uncertainty persists that boosting a 20-year-old man will redound to his net health benefit. After two doses of mRNA vaccination, he will have a markedly reduced chance of hospitalization or death. He will also face a nonzero risk of myocarditis from a dose three. While a third dose may provide short-term protection against symptomatic disease, his disease would likely be mild anyway. We do not know with confidence that such a person should receive a booster. Recently, in light of these concerns, Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Communication Center of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, advised his own son not to receive a booster. Current policy is built on the claim that we know that it is in the best interest of a young person to receive a booster shot. We don’t.

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Falsehoods and half-truths have consequences. Publishing flawed science to raise irrational fear, making false statements about the efficacy of treatments, and extrapolating data from one vaccine to another all constitute bad scientific practice. In normal times, scientists would not tolerate such behavior. Yet, repeatedly, federal agencies and respected organizations push recommendations that are deeply uncertain, rely on fearmongering, or provide hollow reassurances. The right answer would be to acknowledge the massive residual uncertainty surrounding these issues and embark on studies to reduce it.

Martin Kulldorff tweets:

Many lockdowners have gone silent on Twitter, but a few still don’t comprehend the devastating effects that ineffective lockdowns had on children, the working class and the poor around the world.

Anatomy of the Bio-Security Police State.” (HT Jay Bhattacharya) Two slices:

The U.S. States of California and New York, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, as well as Israel, France, Italy, Austria and Germany have used the virus as justification to implement coercive and authoritarian policies of social control.

They have transformed themselves into Bio-Security Police States.

The Bio-Security Police State is characterized by repeated and ever more egregious infringements upon civil liberties and individual freedom in the name of ‘Public Health’, including:

  • Suspension of democratic processes and legislation of emergency police powers under the justification of a ‘State of Emergency’.
  • Coercive and restrictive non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) including population lockdowns.
  • Heavy-handed police enforcement of Public Health orders such as arrest for failure to wear masks, being further than an arbitrary distance from one’s home and participating in ‘unauthorized’ protests.
  • Restrictions on citizens’ domestic movement, and in some cases, restrictions on outbound international travel.
  • Ubiquitous QR-code check-ins and other methods of non-consensual mass data collection for the purpose of contact tracing.
  • Mass vaccination, either through mandate or industry coercion.
  • Vaccine ‘passports’ that restrict societal participation of the unvaccinated, or ‘incompletely’ vaccinated from society.
  • Quarantine camps for forced interment of COVID positive people, and in some instances, asymptomatic close contacts of COVID cases.

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The Nations of the West have chosen to exhibit blatant disregard for sacred principles upon which the Western liberal democracy was built.

Principles that have emerged through centuries of hard-won battles against tyranny and oppression.

Principles enshrined in the foundational civilization movement of the Enlightenment and the foundational civilization documents of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Principles that protect the fundamental, inalienable, Natural Rights of the individual.

Principles that formerly separated Western liberal democracies from military dictatorships, communist dictatorships and other forms of authoritarian states.

Principles that are now being discarded, suspended, torn up and ignored in the name of ‘Public Health’, ‘Science’ and ‘Safety’.

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