The politically charged topics I get the most pushback about, whether it be in personal emails or comments (not all of which I post) are two: transsexual issues and criticism of bogus remedies for Covid. I can’t tell you the rancor I’ve seen about my view that we should be very wary of letting biological men who have assumed the gender of women compete in women’s sports. For that I have of course been called a “transphobe”, but I brush off that invective for I have no fear or hatred of transsexuals; sports is an issue of fairness towards women, and you can’t ignore the evidence. And yes, there is evidence about the performance, physiology, and morphology of men who transition (with or without medical treatment), and it’s not favorable towards the idea that they should take part in in women’s sports.
And of course when I went after ivermectin, people tried to trounce me, even though there was no evidence that it worked to prevent or cure Covid-19 (and there still isn’t).(I got a long email, for example, from Heather Heying, who very politely tried to convince me of the error of my ways.) But most of the ivermectin-pushers have no sense of the scientific reality: even if ivermectin did work, it wouldn’t work nearly as well as vaccinations, for the latter have been tested thoroughly and if Ivermectin had equally profound effects, we’d know it already. Taking all the side effects into account, you’re way, way better getting the jab than taking ivermectin, a drug used in humans for non-covid purposes like parasitic lice and worms.
I just realized that one of the reasons I write here, and what gets me most fired up, is when people misuse science to promote their ideological ends. Both ivermectin and transsexual issues have involved that kind of misuse, as does the current flap in New Zealand, where a tsunami of Wokeness is getting the government and universities to promote Mātauranga Māori, or Māori “ways of knowing”, as a form of science that should be taught as coequal to science in the classroom. While MM contains kernels of empirical truth, the whole movement is little more than an ideology of valorizing the oppressed being turned into science. (This is also happening in the U.S. with nonsense like “sex in humans is not binary” being promulgated as sacred truths.)
Others can believe such nonsense if they want, but when they try to force it on others, or teach it as “science” or “fact” to others, it becomes something I can’t abide. As Hitchens said, more or less, “you can have your toys if you want, but you can’t make me play with them.” Nor can you make my children play with them—in this case “my children” being those who haven’t been exposed to (or who don’t know how to assess) scientific data.
But I digress. It was just a passing epiphany. At any rate, speaking of Covid-19, I got this rather unhinged comment trying to force its way onto my website this morning. I don’t know why reader “Alex” (this would have been his screen name) is so heated up about vaccinatoon, but he seems to be one of those Claptonesque people who cannot abide the idea of being forced to be vaccinated. These people apparently don’t realize that for children to attend public school in America, they need to get many vaccinations. Otherwise, “no school for you.”
I’ll leave it to readers to respond to the comment below. Say what you will to “Alex”, and I’ll send him a link to the comments here. As always, try to be polite (granted, it’s hard with a hothead like this), and abide by the Roolz, even though Alex didn’t.
Here’s what I got:
A new comment on the post “Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying go unvaccinated for Covid, take and promote Ivermectin instead” is waiting for your approval
Comment:It’s January 2022. Do you still want to keep banging the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” drum? Because, despite all of your willingness to smear and deride the unvaccinated, I believe those authoritarians who want to continuously ramp up punitive measures against the unvaccinated in the face of the facts before us are the true, anti-scientific deplorables.. It’s appalling to me that people want to coerce others into getting this vaccine through loss of livelihood, stripping of freedoms, and even criminal penalties, especially given that we don’t have legal recourse against these companies. That fact alone to me excuses anyone for turning down the vaccine. It’s fine if you personally want to take that risk (I did myself), but to want punitive measures or even to just endlessly ridicule those who decide not to take those odds is reprehensible to me, given the more dubious efficacy of these vaccines than promised and the other repeated breaches of trust from our institutions through this entire pandemic. And I say this as someone who got two shots of Moderna, so you can’t hurl unoriginal “anti-vaxx” insults my way. Seriously, you all need to realize that the tone and comments expressed on this page are totally unconvincing and alienate those like me from your positions. Do what you will with that information.
What I did with this information is given Alex an entire post to rant about the vaccination. That’s better than just ditching his comment as medically uninformed and potentially dangerous, which was my first inclination.
158 thoughts on “A reader’s Claptonesque vaccine rant”
The problem with this attitude is it is all about you. No one else counts. You think getting the vaccine is just “your” choice. But this attitude is crap and everyone knows it. How many people to you want to give the virus to being unvaccinated? Do you say the same about wearing a seatbelt? Do you say the same about needing a drivers license to drive a car? How about all those people working at the hospitals and clinics around the country. Do you say to hell with them? If we clog up you hospital and they can no longer take care of other sick people, well, that’s required for our freedom. I guess this freedom of yours means you don’t have to pay taxes either? I think you need a change of attitude.
Often the “libertarian” philosophy does include lower (if not 0) taxes, and even now we’re hearing from the Repubs that the rest of us shouldn’t be paying for others’ childcare, etc. Perhaps the willfully unprotected should pay for their own Covid care, or perhaps hospitals should send them home to be “free” to take care of themselves, and pay for their own Ivermectin, hydroxychlroquine, bleach injections, ineffective monoclonal antibodies, supplemental oxygen, etc. Why should I have to pay higher taxes and insurance for those who deliberately put themselves at risk?
And, as Randall points out, most of us put up with certain other “mandates” (oh, horrors!) to live in a healthier, civilized society. But hey, why should health care workers and teachers be screened for TB (which involves injection of a foreign substance and/or being subjected to potentially harmful radiation)? Or students not be allowed in classrooms without MMR, polio vax, etc. And speed limits?? Those can limit certain livelihoods.
Meanwhile, I’ve been living with a condition that has significantly worsened my quality of life for the last month, and I can’t get into the hosp. for the preliminary elective procedure for another 2 weeks (and the more definitive procedure at least until March; they can’t even schedule it yet). 2 years ago I’d have had both by now, but beds, staff, and other resources are being taken up by the unvaccinated.
And “dubious efficacy?????” Read the recent studies.
In my opinion, the attitude of vaccination opponents is always the same. They are concerned only with themselves. Pure egoism.
Any sense of community and solidarity with the group of people who cannot be vaccinated is completely missing.
I don’t believe the anti-vaxxers begin to understand the rising groundswell of dislike the rest of us are struggling to control. We still have lockdowns because of them. We can’t get long-awaited surgery or go to needed chemo appointments because of them. Some of us die because of them. The economy is going to hell because of them. Businesses are failing as a result. They whine about how it is too dangerous for them to get the unproven vaccine, whilst we have quietly taken the risk (if there is one at all) for the good of all. They are free-riders who rely on us to be vaccinated and not infect them while they don’t want to expose their delicate little bodies to evil vaccines. Those among us who cannot be vaccinated, or who do not make a decent immune response to vaccines have to rely on everyone else to minimize the chance of them getting infected, and that means being vaccinated and behaving responsibly with respect to masks and distancing. Are the anti-vaxxers helping out there? Are they heck. They say we must ‘take responsibility for our own health’ and let them do what they want (which seems to mean going to bars, restaurants and sports events). Should we point out they have vastly higher risks of infection, hospital admission, ICU admission and death, they tell us we are lying and make up nonsense about how the pandemic doesn’t even exist. I don’t suppose they know how much China appreciates their efforts, and maybe they wouldn’t like it if they did, but no doubt they’d make up some more lies to get through the moment. Such people need to grow up, stop being selfish, and act like mature, responsible adults who belong to a larger society. And if they won’t, we will see more mandated vaccination, targeted financial consequences (as in Québec), and possibly extra costs for covid-related health care (as in Singapore). I won’t cry a bit when that happens.
+ a very large number
Very well expressed. Big thanks.
Now those big trucks blocking the streets in Ottawa and the road to the border in Alberta need to be moved along so the rest of the country can get back to work. Starve them out or start towing them.
Brave Alex, … saying … a whole lot of nothing…
I’m confused as to what to write about this.
Hooray for freedom from polio and measles… but only those count. No new vaccines.
One phrase I have a problem with is: “… given the more dubious efficacy of these vaccines than promised …”.
This is false. An entirely new class of vaccines was developed in record time, and they have extraordinary efficacy. As I recall, in the beginning of the pandemic the outlook for timely, effective vaccines was dim.
Another phrase I object to is: “… and the other repeated breaches of trust from our institutions through this entire pandemic.”
It’s true that the CDC and other agencies could have acted more effectively, and may have without political inference. However, some people seem to believe that when new scientific evidence during a rapidly evolving pandemic leads to changes in protocols, recommendations, treatments, and so on, it amounts to flip-flopping and breaches of trust. (This viewpoint is amplified in certain media.) I suspect Alex is one of these people.
Except they weren’t. The design process for this method of stimulating the immune system has been going on for over a decade. The fast step has been the biochemical equivalent of writing a program, compiling it (after writing a compiler, the slow step), testing it, then putting it into production.
The interesting outcome, and the most consequential one, most likely is the effect this new procedure will have on development of vaccines for other diseases. Where the biochemistry of a disease is compatible with this approach – which won’t be all diseases – the big remaining hurdle will be in getting shots made, distributed and into arms. That will continue to cost money (and that is going to be a problem until the heat death of the universe, people being people). And vaccination campaigns will continue to meet lethal opposition for political reasons (Boko Haram are still managing to keep people catching polio in the Sahel, and it’s not clear if the Indian and Pakistani opponents have been defeated. If polio gets back into Afghanistan, then the whole eradication effort is probably going to be a waste of effort because the Taliban aren’t going to give a damn.) But the political modesty board of slow vaccine development is being substantially removed.
The politicians won’t like that. How they will extract revenge isn’t clear.
I’m aware that the mRNA vaccine technology was many years in the making, but the speed at which it was applied to covid in humans was astonishing and unprecedented. In fact, this speed is something anti vaxxers use to support their suspicions that the vaccines are dangerous and unproven.
Here’s comprehensive history of the development of the technology:
Thanks for the link,Stephen.
There is so much to say, but I will leave out most of what I want to say. I will comment here that the average person does not really know how science works in a fairly new area, where most things are Unknown at the start. Some seem to think that science is this idealized process leading to Pronouncements that are Correct the first time, when in fact it is a fair bit messy, with lots of walking back from previous conclusions. But what is wonderful about science is that it is the pretty much the only place where humans actually change their minds in the light of new and better evidence. Elsewhere people tend to double down and retreat to their political silos.
So now the public gets to see a bit about how it really works. It ain’t perfect, folks, but if it weren’t for this amazing algorithm called science we’d still be fighting polio.
The COVID stuff, in particular, is a complicated mess for the average person. There are so many moving parts: a changing viral threat, a changing understanding of same, a changing response toolset, and a changing understanding of human responses to those remedies. This is why most people need to listen to the experts rather than do their own research. By all means they should learn science but most won’t do it fast enough to make the right COVID decisions. This is why the malicious undermining of authority is perhaps our greatest public health threat.
Really Paul? Are the concepts THAT hard for the average person? They seem pretty elemental, easy to understand. Sure I’m well educated and even attended med school for awhile, but the concepts around COVID aren’t med school level. High school at their most complicated IF you pay attention and don’t take advice from damn facebook, influencers or idiots like Joe Rogan.
keep commenting, btw, I always enjoy yours,
Perhaps you haven’t met an average person for a while. I hear conversations among the locals, most of which are vaccinated, and they aren’t very understanding. Even the idea that one must think in terms of risk and reward when weighing options seems alien to them. There’s lots of “going with my gut”.
Yes, or locally around here (Minnesoa): Garage Logic.
The most obvious and dumb-ass idea tends to be the right one (according to GL).
People have always been terrible at avoiding confirmation bias and placebo effect. “Gut” is the purified and crystalized version of confirmation bias.
@Paul yes I think this is what gives oxygen to folks like Alex. One barely-moving part is the glacial changes in the public health messaging, which still include simple-minded admonition to get vaccinated in order to protect others (avoid getting infected and passing on the virus). Alex and his confederacy of dunces know what we all know, that the first-generation mRNA vaccines protect against severe disease but don’t provide very much protection against infection by omicron. This out-of-date messaging gives cover to dopes like Alex who will use any excuse to question the mandates (and from there to question the motives and legitimacy) of public health authorities.
I think I posted this before, but this Nature article summarizes work by Jesse Bloom comparing the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 to other coronaviruses that crossed into humans. Bloom comes to an uplifting prediction about the evolution of the disease and the end of the pandemic.
Alex says “Do as I say, not as I did.”
So convincing. LOL
Alex’s complaints are twofold. First, he doubts the efficacy of the vaccines, even though he has had two shots. A trivial amount of research would reveal that the vaccines are doing a great job in reducing deaths, hospitalizations, and severe illness. Second, he seems to believe that compelling people to take the vaccine is a form of tyranny by the government. Apparently, such perceptions are not confined to the United States. These views are the inevitable end of libertarianism run amok, but are trumpeted by run-of-the-mill right-wing politicians and talk show hosts who find the “tyranny” argument as a means to gain and retain power. People receptive to the fear of tyranny illustrate why libertarianism is such an odious political philosophy: its premise is one of pure selfishness. It posits that the role of government should be severely limited and that people doing whatever they want, such as rejecting vaccines, will result in an unexplained fashion in a better society than one where government plays an active role in improving the commonweal. So, for folks like Alex, the maintenance of their conception of freedom is infinitely more important than stopping a pandemic that has killed millions around the globe. And this is why the “world is getting better” argument is always in peril of collapsing at any moment.
Libertarianism is not necessarily opposed to mandatory vaccination. See for example “A libertarian case for mandatory vaccination” by libertarian philosopher Jason Brennan: https://jme.bmj.com/content/44/1/37
Ah, yes, a philosopher.
Does it not occur to you that an equally big, if not bigger reason, compared to self-protection, to get vaccinated is to do one’s part to protect others? There is not a single mention of this in your screed.
I am glad you did get vaccinated.
Quite apart from legal sanctions, it seems to me profoundly immoral, for the reason you ignored, for anyone who can safely be vaccinated not to get the damn thing, and try to help put a stop to what has already become more than one million deaths of USians. The latter number is clear from deaths occurring in excess of the statistical expectation.
I did a calculation a few weeks ago, that the death rate in the UK over the 15 months of the pandemic has been around twice the casualty rate in WW2. If America has topped a million casualties (not a statistic I’ve been tracking, but I’ll take it as read), then that’s about 5 times the casualty rate for WW2.
I wonder what America did so badly to suffer so much higher a casualty rate.
Well, one reason is that Americans are obese.
And old. Don’t forget the most significant risk factor for death (by a huge margin): Age.
” . . . put a stop to what has already become more than one million deaths of USians.”
I don’t doubt that, as it seems that it can be plausibly asserted that the number of Covid deaths in the U.S. has been underestimated.
The MSM reports (or asserts, speculates, hypothecates) that China has underestimated their number of Covid deaths. That’s quite plausible. At the same time, the MSM (NY Times, among others) also frequently holds forth on the “draconian” measures China employs to deal with Covid, measures Americans, refulgent with “Exceptionalism” and “individualism,” are alleged not to be able to tolerate.
(Not a few ‘Muricans allege that Chinese/Asians are submissive or subservient. I’m inclined to rather consider them cooperative and collaborative.)
I’m not aware of the MSM advising China how it can do better. Assuming that the same degree of underestimation occurs in both China and the U.S., and all else being equal, it would reasonably seem that China (Chinese citizens) does (do) better than the U.S. (U.S. citizens) in this regard.
A few months ago I heard podcaster ( and rapper, as if that somehow bolsters his political bona fides) Zuby speculate (on Triggernometry? – I don’t recall) that not all deaths allegedly caused by Covid were caused by Covid. He offered no evidence to support his contention, and said not one word about plausible underreporting of U.S. Covid deaths. Anything must be so if it pops into one’s mind.
When Bill Maher last week cited Florida’s death toll at #17 out of the 50 states, he made a big deal that their governor kept the state open, but Maher made no mention that the governor misrepresents Covid cases and deaths. More confirmation bias on Maher’s part.
Personally I am currently in a position of listening to the other side and counter arguments to vaccination and there’s only a few arguments that are beginning to make sense to me, but are not being talked about. Also, Alex did not make these points. I’ve heard doctors mention natural immunity. Yes, I said it, natural immunity. No, I am not an anti-vaxxer. But when doctors say you have a level of immunity after you’ve had Covid, why is that not taken into consideration? If you got Covid and recovered prior to the vaccine being available, why can’t that be considered as having some level of immunity?
I understand that scientists and doctors also say that 1/ from the beginning, the vaccines are a much stronger protection, and 2/ the vaccines have noticeably longer continuing effect, though it does also ‘wear off’ to an extent.
Please do not argue on a black&white basis, that since neither is perfect, it follows (NO<NO<NO) that both are useless. I realize you did not say that, but many have in effect done so.
Of course natural immunity is “some level of immunity”. It’s still not a reason to avoid the vaccine. Don’t people get flu shots each year even though we’ve had the flu? The data still says the vaccine is by far the best way to go, even for those who have had COVID already. The risk of getting sick and/or passing it on to others far outweighs the risk of side effects from the vaccine.
My guess is that those who have had COVID already and decide not to get vaccinated are not basing that decision on their natural immunity but on the idea that, if they catch it again, it will be no big deal. That might be true but might not. It has been shown that how sick one gets depends on how big a virus dose one gets. The first bout with COVID could have been a glancing blow whereas the second could be a direct hit. There’s also the possibility that natural immunity against one COVID variant doesn’t help that much with a different variant. Finally, a vaccinated person catching COVID doesn’t pass it on as readily as an unvaccinated person.
“It has been shown that how sick one gets depends on how big a virus dose one gets.”
Really? Citation please?
Infection can be started by a single vector particle. Seems to me how sick you get depends on your immune system and your personal vulnerability. Viruses reproduce exponentially in the body. In a couple of generations (minutes? hours?) the starting value becomes completely unimportant compared to the current load.
People keep stating, as fact, that the vaccines provide better immunity than a natural infection. I’d like to see some solid data on this. I haven’t yet. Many millions of people have had COVID and never knew it and certainly were never studied for immunity afterwards. This is certain to skew the results.
That being exposed to one protein from the virus will provide a superior immune response than being exposed to the entire virus — and getting sick from it: A big immune response — (though certainly possible) seems counter-intuitive in the extreme.
The important immune response is the “memory” of the immune system for the invader. Not the amount of antibodies circulating, which, by “design”, will always drop off.
I am not anti-vax (I have had a full course, including booster last fall and was aggressive in seeking them out). And I get the desire to put as much pressure as possible on people (who are unvaccinated) to get vaccinated. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves about natural immunity either.
In absence of natural immunity, we are unlikely to come out from under this.
The efficacy measures for the vaccines are: Serious illness (can view this as hospitalization) and death. (And they are doing a great job there.) It is not transmission or illness. The public health response has been designed to: Prevent the overwhelming of the medical infrastructure.
Omicron is, overall, our friend. Much less virulent. Much more contagious. Cross-strain immunity is very good. Soon, everyone will be either: Vaccinated, have had COVID and recovered, or be dead. In reality, this is the only way out of the problem.
COVID is with us forever. The goal now is to get to where it is much more like the flu than it is like SARS or MERS. Long-term surveillance is required. This was a trial run for the really bad one yet to come.
Here’s a citation.
Thanks, could you provide as link please?
(How do they measure “how much gets into your body” as opposed to measured viral load at time T? I’d like to read up on that.)
Duh! Sorry, missed the link.
OK, read the article. The quoted statement is very vague.
My question is: How can they distinguish between “the amount of virus that gets into your body” and measured viral load at time T?
How can they know how much virus “gets into your body”? What method could reliably measure this? How can they know the exact time that a person got infected (thereby determining when to measure their viral load for how much got into their body)?
They may know the concentration of virus in the atmosphere around a person. And they can certainly measure viral load at time T1, T2, T3, etc. The hypothesis seems unprovable to me.
From the same article:
It’s clear that a relationship between viral load and illness has not been established.
I don’t think it is clear at all. But that’s because I’m not expert on the subject. I do, however, take the word of the epidemiologists who seem to think that viral load is a factor in how the illness progresses.
I too doubt there’s a way to determine viral load directly but who knows? I remember reading that epidemiologists estimate viral load in a patient by length of exposure and distance of contact with the infected person(s). This would obviously be error-prone for an individual but they used a large sample. Don’t ask me how large.
“[I] take the word of the epidemiologists”
With you there 100%.
“who seem to think that viral load is a factor in how the illness progresses”
Nothing to argue with there. Viral load is a measurement of a state at a particular time. A high viral load indicates that the virus is reproducing at a high rate. It’s reasonable to assume that a high viral reproduction rate is correlated to symptoms and physical outcomes: If the virus is “happy” and cranking out large number of copies, this seems likely to be bad for one’s cells and for one’s health.
The article notes: “People with COVID-19 who continue to show a high viral load seem to have more serious symptoms. As viral loads go down, their chances of getting better go up.”
The writer of the article (the only attestation is a review by Michael W. Smith, MD on August 20, 2021) includes these statements:
No argument on the infectioness parameter. That is likely simply numbers: Encounter more viruses and you’re more likely to get infected. Sure.
Not sure if anyone has data on that first statement. The study data for the vaccine approvals show that you are far less likely to go to hospital or die.
The last two sentences are correct.
They never actually show why this direct statement would be true (or link to a study): “Could Exposure to a Higher Viral Load Make You Sicker? The short answer seems to be yes.”
If they said, “make you more likely to become infected,” I’d be on board.
Based on all of the other uncertainty stated in the article, I wonder that they make such a strong statement in that one place?
I also seem to remember that “viral load” is different than “viral dose”. Viral load is how many virus particles are present in one’s body. Viral dose is how many virus particles are introduced into one’s body at the time of infection. I’m not going to look this up to see whether I remembered correctly. Perhaps this is all something I dreamed.
Viral load is relatively easy to measure.
What’s hard to measure (extremely hard) is “how much virus got into your body.” That is, the amount of virus that initiated the infection.
With a rapidly reproducing infectious agent, I question the hypothesis that it has an effect on the seriousness of the illness. Such an effect would be very hard to prove.
More virus around you = more likely to get infected. Yes, no problem.
(I suppose we’ve flogged this issue to death at this point.)
“Dose” vs. “Load”. Important distinction. I await the results of your search, Paul.
I lied. I did the search right after writing my comment. Looks like “infectious dose” or “viral inoculum” are the preferred phrases for what we’re talking about and it is different from “viral load”. I’m not going to give the reference as it isn’t easy to be definitive about terminology. I suppose there’s a medical dictionary or encyclopedia out there that defines this but I didn’t look for it. (This time I’m really not going to search for it.)
Clearly I didn’t mean that how sick one gets depends ONLY on viral load. Give me a break. From WebMD:
Hi Paul, I didn’t say that you did.
You state there is a (presumably measurable) effect. That’s fine; but I challenge that there’s a way to even assess that in a reliable way. That’s my only comment on that.
Higher load around you (or onto you) = more likely to get infected. Yes, of course, with you there all the way.
I hate to get so pedantic about this (I know I am being a bit ass-holeish about this, guilty). But there are so many statements being thrown around about COVID, I really want to press for clear and correct statements of fact.
(And, as you’ll know if you’ve read some of my other comments, I think the frequent dismissal of naturally-acquired immunity to be nonsensical.)
“I think the frequent dismissal of naturally-acquired immunity to be nonsensical.”
I find this a strange statement. Having already caught COVID doesn’t prevent you from catching it again but may prevent you from getting really sick. Who is dismissing that? I suspect you want to say something stronger here but don’t want to make it explicit for fear that commenters will pounce on it. Are you suggesting that those who’ve had COVID already don’t need to get vaccinated? We’ve all had the flu but we still get flu shots. If that’s not it then what, exactly, are you suggesting about “naturally-acquired immunity”? I find that phrase vague because “immunity” implies 100% protection without really saying it.
Natural immunity comes from having had the disease, probably passed it to others, and probably survived. Or you could get vaccinated and not suffer the disease or die or pass it to others (far lower likelihoods). Maybe you think natural is better.
Nope, she didn’t say that. She asked:
This is, I think, in response to the, essentially complete, discounting of natural immunity by many, including many on these comment threads.
Why the complete dismissal of natural immunity? Do we say this about any other disease? Why or why not? Is COVID-19 somehow categorically different from every other viral disease humans have encountered?
Many millions have had COVID, including huge numbers that never even knew they had it, and they are extremely unlikely to get seriously ill or die from a future infection (which we will all get eventually).
I get the desire to press everyone to get vaccinated. I’m with the team there. But the dismissal of natural immunity makes no sense to me. (I get it, that’s what the “Herd Immunity” fools were touting — but natural immunity is real and many millions now have it.)
As I understand the latest evidence on the omicron variant, it is breaking through any natural immunity from previous strains, as well as vaccine-induced immunity. But with vaccine immunity AND recovery from omicron, there appears to be good cross immunity. For any of the known strains, being unvaccinated increases one’s risk of hospitalization and death.
Yes, Omicron bypasses immune protection. That is why Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are developing an adapted vaccine.
Do read what I wrote above. It doesn’t “bypass”, at least completely immune protection. If you’ve had two shots and a booster of either Prizer or Moderna, you’re pretty well protected against omicron. In such cases it has not bypassed the immune reaction.
As I write this, I have COVID. I received my positive lab results on Friday. My symptoms started on Monday. It hasn’t been pleasant but I’ve had colds that made me feel worse. I had the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna booster. I have little doubt that if I had not had those shots I would be in the hospital right now (or worse). More than anything, it makes me sad that so many of my fellow citizens fear the vaccines more than they fear the disease, and worst of all don’t fear passing the disease on to their friends and loved ones. Jesus, I’m worried about passing it to my cat! (Stay strong, Barnaby).
Robert: good luck to you and Barnaby for a strong recovery. I too was double vaccinated and boosted and on the Tuesday after christmas, I came down with 101.9 fever for two days which copious amounts of tylenol brought down to normal by the third day on which I just felt really lousy with a bad cough. By the fifth day I was basically symptom-free except for a few coughing spells which lasted a few more days. At the first sign of the fever, i took an at home covid antigen test which was strongly positive; on the fifth day i took another test which was still positive but took longer to turn than the first day. Five days later I had a negative test. I did have a nagging cough from time to time over a couple of weeks, but overall it appears the vaccine did its job: no deep illness, no hospital, no icu, no ventilator, no morgue. My pulseox stayed at 97/98 the whole period. I am 73 with a couple of co-mobidities including cancer and chemo 12 years ago. You and Barnaby please take care.
Thank you, Jim. You do the same. I’m very pleased that you are doing better.
Sorry, my mistake. Omicron does not bypass immune protection but is an immune escape variant that evades protection to some extent by vaccination or infection with other Sars-CoV-2 variants.
Nonsense. I know dozens of people locally who are vaccinated and then have gotten sick with Omicron. They “got a cold”, nothing more.
When I rock climbed on a regular basis, we’d use small devices that fit into cracks in the rock. Sometimes very small devices, for which the running joke was “they may not stop you, but they’ll sure as hell slow you down”. However, the response from the traditionalists was “the lead climber should not fall”.
With two shots and a booster in my arm, I’m still using protections (masks in public spaces, social distancing) as well as not intending to fall. Regardless of government regulations, I don’t see those protections becoming unwise until well into next year, or maybe even 2024.
Caveat the next variant. Which would be like taking up the ice axes again.
I find it funny how often those “freedom” anti-vaxxers begin their rants by pointing out they personally took the vaccine, right before descending into the usual lies, conspiracies and half-truths.
It’s just so brave of Alex to “take the risk” of those two Moderna shots despite their “dubious efficacy” and all those “institutional breaches of trust”. He took one for the team, now he just fights so that others don’t have to go through the same traumatizing ordeal.
The anti-vaxxers demonstrate a religious missionary zeal. They pop up on every message board.
I thought of the worst nightmare: An anti-vax, anti-mask, flat-earth, anti-choice evangelical Republican libertarian. One would have to shut down one’s brain.
How did you get hold of Trump’s 2024 campaign plan?
I can make your nightmare worse. Add in “creationist”.
Geez, thanks, people. I was just getting ready to go to sleep!
What’s immediately telling in comments like Alex’s is the lack of references. He (or she) is making a claim that is completely contrary to the oft-stated opinions of the website’s host and most of its commenters, yet he doesn’t feel the need to bolster his point with any facts or even links to other people’s opinions. He either has none to refer to or, more likely, knows that the links he might give would actually detract from his point in the eyes of his audience. He can go pound sand!
And with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, you are jumping to the conclusion that Alex reaches his conclusions after a logical consideration of evidence. /s
Update your beliefs – use evidence – weight the evidence – update again – find new evidence, weight it, update, adjust weight…
See where I’m going with this?
Read the Bayesian inference / likelihood posts on this site.
In the voice of the religious (including anti-vaxxers – it’s just another religion in that respect ; you don’t need a god for a religion, as most commentators here are happy to accept) “Burn the heretic!”
Well, Reverend Thomas Bayes was a “man of the church”, so I guess he had that going for him…
“I just realized that one of the reasons I write here, and what gets me most fired up, is when people misuse science to promote their ideological ends.”
My 2 cents: that’s one of the main reasons I’m a regular reader. (That, and science, and … cats!)
And boots , though it’s been a while for those.
And food and travel which has also been a while…though understandably so.
This seems like complaining that a “No shoes, no shirt, no service” notice outside a bar discriminates against people who are too poor to own shirts and shoes or just don’t like wearing them. Except in this case being a topless barefoot isn’t just unsightly or unhygienic, it dramatically increases the chance of making you and others in the bar really ill. Plus the barman is offering to give you free shoes and a free shirt so you can come in. And yet somehow you still find ways of complaining about your “rights”.
Since Alex accepted vaccination for himself, his argument is a little mystifying—seeming to rest, as Historian points out above, on a Jesuitical opposition to public health measures generally. Those who reject the concept of publicly mandated vaccination should think a little about a viral disease which has
disappeared from the advanced world because of universal vaccination: poliomyelitis. Thinking about polio should include reading about the experience of polio, for example two books by my late friend
Lorenzo Milam: “Life Among The Walkies”, Mho & Mho Works, 2018; and “The Cripple Liberation Front Marching Band Blues”, Mho & Mho Works, 1984.
‘Those who reject the concept of publicly mandated vaccination should think a little about a viral disease which has disappeared from the advanced world because of universal vaccination: poliomyelitis.’
SO countries with very high vaccination rates like, eg, Israel and Gibraltar have seen COVID vanish?
Okay, I’ve had enough of this. As you said, you clearly don’t know much about vaccinations, and it’s showing. All you’re doing here is dissing vaccinations. Why, one might think you’re an anti-vaxer!
Have Gibraltar (not a country, but I’ll let that slide) and Israel closed their borders?
I don’t know about Israel, but I do know that my wife spent several days in Gibraltar in the middle of last year to attend her daughter’s wedding – along with people from at least two other countries. (Actually, since both wife and daughter have friends in Israel … well, I don’t know the guest list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lina attended from Israel too.)
Polio hasn’t disappeared from the world. Or, alternatively, the world isn’t “advanced” – an interpretation I’m happy to accept.
There has been a partially successful eradication campaign, but TTBOMK it has run into opposition from the religious fundamentalists of Boko Haram in the Sahel, and problems in India and Pakistan. I’m not optimistic that the eradication campaign will succeed.
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If you want to understand the minds of the anti-authoritarian vaccination Opponents, recall the opposition to wearing motorcycle helmets which was very widespread among motorcycles who used the same arguments. I thought they were crazy too but A lot less so than the anti-Vader’s.
Yes, I remember those. Still, it seemed more of an individual decision. No one else would be harmed if their head was bashed in. (Yes, loved ones would be harmed and everyone’s insurance premiums would be affected.)
I remember that period too, having been a motorcyclist in my youth. I had a red motorcycle helmet
with a flat spot on top. The helmet got the flat spot in this accident: one time I accidentally dropped the helmet on on the pavement.
Having a friend who regained consciousness one time, laying at the foot of a tree with the two halves of his helmet laying to either side of his head, I do hope you chopped that helmet in half. Plastics and glass fibre may be tough, but they’re really difficult to detect sub-surface cracks in.
He lost his driving licence for 5 years, because in the hospital he had several epileptic fits. When he’d been fit-free and off anti-epileptic medication for several years, he got his license (car and bike) back.
+1 very good advice.
In Germany, compulsory seat belts were introduced in 1976. The resistance from parts of the population against this measure was strong. The arguments sounded something like those of anti-vaxxers.
There was also opposition to seatbelt laws, apparently, when states began to roll them out. Unpleasant to imagine what things would have been like if that was done during this age of social media and powerful conservative news channels.
All I can say is “Cry me a river, Alex”. When the decision to not be vaccinated impacts nobody but the person involved get back to me. Then I’ll pay some attention to your anguish.
I’m not an expert on vaccines.
We don’t give people 2020 flu vaccines against the 2022 strain of the flu virus.
How does the vaccine developed against the original strain of the virus defend us from catching Omicron?
Paul Topping wrote ‘Don’t people get flu shots each year even though we’ve had the flu? ‘
I’ve had Russian flu and Hong Kong flu, so naturally I want protection against the latest strain, because I know the immunity against those strains won’t help against the next.
I have had the vaccine against the original strain of COVID-19 and would be happy to take a tested vaccine against the Omicron strain.
You know, you could find the answer by Googling. The standard three-vaccine course by Pfizer and Moderna does protect you significantly against omicron.
Here’s one article. Read it. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2022/01/no-omicron-immunity-without-booster-study-finds/#:~:text=Balazs%20notes%20that%20the%20three,type%20strain%20or%20Delta%20variant.
And you surely know that the flu vaccines don’t offer protection against the known latest strain; they are based on PREDICTIONS of the prevalence of different strains.
Really, you can look these things up for yourself.
The cross-immunity is very good (as these things go).
Recall: The efficacy measures for the vaccines are: Serious illness (hospitalization) and death. Not illness and not transmission.
We are all going to eventually get COVID (including us vaccinated people). With luck, it will be no worse than a “common cold”.
Humans regularly get vaccines for a ton of infecto-contagious diseases. The issue of anti-vaxxers is with all vaccines? Or just the Covid vaccine? It is freakin crazy to be against all types of vaccines. And it is even more freakin crazy to be against only one specific vaccine.
Regarding “the opposition to wearing motorcycle helmets which was very widespread,” I have to note that hereabouts the nickname for helmetless mortorcyclists is “kidney donors.”
I also have to thank PCC for occasionally sharing with us the maunderings of anti-vax nutters, few of whom I encounter in my heavily-vaccinated small town. There appear to be a great many of these anti-vaxers out there in America, sufficient perhaps to influence national medical directives, so it’s gratifying to be able to glimpse at times samples of their reasoning, such as it is.
I’ve heard that joke numerous times amongst bikers of various stripes, including when heading off into the forests to ride bare-headed along the fire breaks.
Typical gallows humour.
I think you get the prize for funniest lines. I had not heard the kidney joke. I do remember wearing a helmet when I was stupid enough to have a motorcycle. Therefore, I still have my kidneys.
My sister was an ER nurse at a major Chicago hospital for 18 years. The folks in the ER referred to motorcycles as “ organ donor machines”
I wouldn’t call myself stupid for riding motorcycles in my youth. (I always wore a helmet. I always wear a helmet while riding my bicycle. I’ve had a serious concussion (just a few years ago) and I never want another one!)
I loved it and would still except …
The toll life has taken on my arms and legs in the last 60+ years that the thought of dropping a motorcycle is just — unthinkable at this point.
My doctor friends referred to my bike as a “donorcycle”
Adverse reactions, some very serious, to the Covid vaccination may be rare but they’re real. If your fear of having an adverse reaction is greater than your fear of getting Covid, then you’ll probably decide not to get vaccinated. If your fear of getting Covid is greater than your fear of having an adverse reaction, then you’ll probably decide to be vaccinated.
Alex’s point is that whichever decision you make, you shouldn’t try to force it on others. This distinguishes his viewpoint from those of Eric Clapton and others who are on a crusade to discourage others from getting vaccinated. I’m not sure I believe Alex’s claim that he’s been vaccinated, but I find his stance at least more appealing than Clapton’s.
What you don’t calibrate is fear but fact. What are the chances of you getting a bad outcome with the vaccine versus not the vaccine? Isn’t DEATH FROM COVID a serious adverse reaction. I hope you’re not justifying people making decisions based on unjustified fears.
And seriously, if there’s a health crisis, then you lose some of your “right” not to be vaccinated. Is it wrong for schools to force pupils to be vaccinated–to have vaccines “forced on them”? Well? That is for exactly the same reason that there are mandates to get vaccinated.
Both his and Clapton’s stances are virtually indistinguishable to me, and both are completely non-appealing.
There have been 10 billion doses of the vaccines given in the world so far and the number of adverse reactions is so small miniscule compared to flying on a plane or riding in a car or being hit by lightning.
Its like refusing to wear a seat belt while driving, for fear that if the car ever burst into flames the chances of your getting out go way down if you were wearing a seat belt.
I’m sure, as I’m guessing you are, too, that’s not even true. Cars— well, not gasoline cars anyway—don’t just burst into flame while driving along. They have to hit something. And you need to be not KO’d from the crash to pop the release and escape.
“Is it wrong for schools to force pupils to be vaccinated–to have vaccines ‘forced on them’? Well? That is for exactly the same reason that there are mandates to get vaccinated.”
Respectfully, I would question whether the two instances are “exactly the same.” Doctors and medical professionals require informed consent from adult patients before any treatment; without that consent, they are prohibited from forcibly administering medical care. For minors under the age of 18, however, that’s not always the case. While parents generally have the right to make medical decisions for their children, the state may intervene if those decisions put a child or others (including the public health) at risk of death or severe injury. In short, adults may always decline medical treatment for themselves but not always for their children. I stand ready to be corrected, but that seems to me a pretty significant difference.
Okay, you will be corrected. There’s no relevant difference. If you are an adult and you want to work under a vaccine mandate, you have no choice but to be vaccinated. You can always choose not to work, though.
If you’re a parent, and you want your kids to go to public schools YOU have to make them get vaccinated. You have no choice if you want your kids to go to public school. You can always send them to private school. Either way, informed consent is essential–in the second case for the parent.
And in both cases, the mandates are there to protect society, not just the person getting the jabs themselves.
You stand corrected.
You don’t need to be a doctor to give a vaccination or have anything to do with the process. Nurses who do don’t seem overly troubled whether the person they are giving the injection to is giving fully free consent or whether he’s just submitting to avoid being fired or having to pay a tax penalty. Now if the state proposed to hold people down with a knee on their neck to compel vaccination, it might have to recruit a different type of vaccinator, but it’s not a difficult skill to learn.
As a specific example of your scenario B, and one that I posted here some time ago, a friend in Sweden has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is an inherited disorder of connective tissue. Unlike something like Sickle-cell, there are a variety of underlying mutations, so not all EDS are the same.
In her case. after her first mRNA shot she broke out in welts in odd locations of her body like forearm and ankle, presumably as a result of her EDS. I saw the pix. But they resolved. Still, you might think that she might not get the second shot, esp since she is young, but she did (resulting in more lumps and welts that also resolved). Why? Very early in the pandemic she worked in the COVID ward in one of the major hospitals there.
A further contributing motivation may have been that a mutual friend of ours, an exceptionally gracious woman who had once been one of the secretaries to the Queen, also died of COVID in the very early months of the pandemic, after she broke her hip and contracted the virus from one of the cleaning women in the hospital.
I think the Biden approach to make vaccinations an issue of workplace safety was a reasonable one, given the political realities of our country. None of us should have to worry about contracting a potentially life threatening virus simply by showing up to work, and so it makes sense for employers to require vaccines that are demonstrated as safe and effective at reducing disease severity and slowing down transmission. But with the recent court ruling, the point is moot.
Alex’s argument derives from the Ayn Randian libertarianism that makes collective action so difficult with the kind of problem that largely requires collective action. We can end the pandemic once enough of us are immune to SARS-CoV-2 that we slow down its evolution. We can achieve that immunity through vaccination, recovery from infection, or some combination of both. Sadly, uncounted numbers of anti-vaxxers have earned their freedom from being told what to do by dying of COVID. If our approach is simply “it’s all about me!” then that attitude is incompatible with living in a complex society. Are libertarians against air traffic control and FAA regulations because “freedom”?
With the increased virulence and reduced severity/lethality of omicron, the argument in favor of mandatory vaccines seems to be eroding, as nature is far outpacing vaccine compliance. Here’s hoping we are on the tail end of this thing.
For values of “us” that include the proverbial Indian in a mud-brick hut up-country from Bangalore. As far as the virus is concerned, they’re as good a Petri dish as “Alex”.
Yep. My hope is a rather naive one, given the huge number of replicates in the experiment 🙁
Story related to me yesterday when I called a guy who has done work for me in the past but with whom I hadn’t spoken in a year or so. I had only maybe 80% confidence that he was probably vaccinated and so was happy when he answered the phone, and I told him of that. He understood and said that he had indeed been doubly-mRNA-vaccinated, but hadn’t been able to get the booster until just before going off to some family holiday event in the hinterlands N of me in western PA.
That was the first flag of what was to come. Then it seems that a relative from a state W of PA that starts with I, just to further slightly camouflage the story, came in for the event; that state was the second flag. The relative’s mother had died of COVID. Was this relative vaccinated? Of course not. And of course said relative was carrying the virus. So everyone at the event wound up testing positive. At least my guy wound up with just relatively benign symptoms but said relative is now on a respirator.
Do I care about said relative? No. What I care about is all the people who wound up having to spend their time caring for that person, the people who contracted the virus as a result, and the drain on the economy as a result of the whole incident, that could have been avoided.
How many nearly identical stories are there out there?
Meanwhile, unrelated to the above, a friend in southern IL who I haven’t seen in person in a couple decades but have stayed in touch with these days on FB seemed to be acting a bit different over the past year. I wrote it off to depression over the loss of a close friend and also his dog of many years, but I came to find out that he came down with COVID in the month just before any vaccines were available, and as a result was without the sense of smell/taste for nearly a year. I know that often happens but I hadn’t heard of it lingering that long. COVID isn’t the only thing that can do that to you, and in the past I’ve known of two people that happened to. One was the wife of my old Organic Chem professor, and I recall him saying that it affected her so much that she had considered suicide.
So everyone get vaccinated for the sake of everyone else and just shut up with the posturing.
The only part of vaccine mandates I don’t support is that they allow for religious exemptions. It’s irrational and arbitrary to allow a religious objection but reject a personal one. ( Medical exemptions I support.)
Your post seems to be advocating for a form of social freedom, which is fair enough. Of course, I think we both realize that social freedom has consequences and costs. So where authorities, Jerry or you and I would like to draw a line as to who bears the cost will vary. In your post you don’t highlight any line as to the cost for those for whatever reason help spread Covid. I am curious as to where you would draw that line?
As to “banging on” and being appalling to you, I can’t help thinking this is the same rhetoric that you find objectionable to in others. But I agree with you here, in that the sneering and derision of anti vaxxers is unwarranted and even worse, counter productive. Ultimately, for whatever reason, they are not responsible for the way their neural pathways have unfolded.
You object to people being coerced into getting vaccinated. Do you object to people being coerced into paying taxes, not speeding or generally obeying laws? Or should we gently encourage people people into doing what’s best according to our current understanding?
All the best Alex
1. PCC wrote “ivermectin…there was no evidence that it worked to prevent or cure Covid-19…” True and I would reword this statement slightly from there is no evidence that ivermectin works against COVID (implying the evidence for efficacy is lacking or hasn’t yet been shown) to there is evidence showing that ivermectin doesn’t work against COVID (there IS evidence from a clinical trial and it failed).
2. I do think a distinction can be made about COVID vaccination though. I think the precedents of manditory childhood vaccination like MMR are a shaky argument for manditory adult COVID vaccinations for several reasons. First, the childhood vaccinations confer lifelong immunity not temporary immunity so the compliance issue is very different. Second, protecting children before the age of consent (i.e. child welfare) is a duty enforced by the state but adults can make choices for themselves. Third, there is a dark history of forced medical treatments on non-consenting adults and the right to not allow the state to force anyone to do something to their body strikes me as a fundamental human right. We have the individual liberty to take our chances and suffer the consequences (even if that is a stupid course of action and even if exercise of that right can adversely affect others…others can always protect themselves by vaccination). And fourth, ask yourself why annual flu vaccination isn’t manditory for adults. Granted, COVID has >10x the mortality as the worst flu seasons on record (except the 1918 flu) but when does voluntary suddenly transition to manditory? Based on mortality rate? Economic effects?
Imagine what “manditory” COVID vaccinations implies. It’s difficult to manufacture billions of doses/year so availability concerns persist. Should everyone get a new vaccine or booster every 6 months? Or will that only be a requirement for certain demographics like the elderly based on risk? Should we all get the omicron booster (once approved) even if the incidence of that variant has declined considerably say in June22? What if they had omicron naturally and beat it? See what I mean?
Disclaimer: I’ve received all 3 shots for COVID and will continue to get every available one in the future (including Omicron when approved) to maximize my chances of having cross-reactive antibodies to future and forthcoming mutants.
Lastly, the antidote to avermectin bullshit is Merck and Pfizer’s drugs (esp. the latter) – designed specifically to inhibit coronavirus replication with clinically proven efficacy. So there’s no need to talk about avermectin – take these new drugs if you’re an antivaxxer or get antibody injections or hope or pray. I still think you’re a selfish ass for not getting vaccinated though and I have little sympathy for such if they end up in the hospital (unless just ignorant due to all the vaccine/drug mis-/disinformation out there).
Why do people making this argument ALWAYS ignore the transmissible nature of communicable disease and that it isn’t just that individual who suffers the consequences? Why?
Because they are selfish, ignorant or both. You knew that but it I didn’t want to let it go unstated. 😉
Yeah. I was hoping Jimbo would acknowledge the issue.
Actually, you are mistaken which is why I included as an example above why aren’t annual flu vaccines mandatory in bad influenza years? The flu is transmissible, no? So what’s the difference? You must engage with this question before accusing me of selfishness or ignorance (which frankly is beneath you and I am neither, GBJames).
When I say “we have liberty…,” I’m not including myself but trying to engage with this issue honestly to see if the other side (I’m on yours) has a shred of a legitimate point. Please don’t mischaracterize me as an antivaxxer or even weakly sympathetic to their stupid cause. I am 100% a vaccine advocate and since I work in the drug development arena, I’ve committed my life’s work to improving human health. I know that the COVID vaccines are over 90% effective at preventing severe COVID and death and are very safe. I’m 90% the way toward a vaccine mandate but 10% of me still questions if mandatory is fully justified from a legal standpoint. There are a lot of poor analogies out there comparing the socially responsible act of vaccination to wearing a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet but there is a distinction to be made between putting a safety measure ON one’s body vs. IN one’s body to protect both the individual and the community. We can’t even get good compliance with mask mandates (a better analogy to seatbelts and ON one’s body so this should be easy). Of course transmissibility changes the calculus as you rightly point out.
The US Constitution does not allow the state to force medical treatments upon adult citizens without their consent except in special circumstances, one being infectious disease that can affect the community (obviously COVID qualifies). I’m trying to understand if we’re in a slippery slope situation here. While I’ll agree that the safety/efficacy profile of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines makes a very strong case for mandatory vaccination strategy (for now), this may not continue and it gets into difficult medical ethics questions in the future. Here’s another hardly hypothetical question for you and Paul: what level of vaccine efficacy (assuming virtually no side effects) is good enough to not just approve but actually advocate for vaccinating everyone : 40%, 60%, 80%, >90%? Further, let’s assume for a future COVID variant that say Pfizer’s best vaccine is shown to be 50% protective against death. Should it be mandatory for the entire population?
I’ll enjoy reading your and Paul’s responses as exemplifications of selflessness and deep knowledge of the COVID pandemic, therapeutics for it, and the law surrounding compulsory vs voluntary use of vaccines/antibody injections/oral drugs.
The fact that you ask such question is remarkable. If you aren’t aware of the difference in death rates from Covid compared to flu you are willfully ignorant. If you imagine that flu has put systemic strains on health care systems that are remotely similar to Covid, you’re willfully ignorant. Willful ignorance is pretty much identical to selfishness.
Willfull ignorance cuts both ways. Clearly you didn’t read what I wrote which cited the mortality of COVID relative to the worst flu seasons on record. Maybe this is a case of willful misrepresentation or self-righteousness on your part. No matter, as you were.
The tu quoque gambit. Yawn.
Ah, and here we have one clear aspect of the problem.
People ostensibly on the ‘same’ side still attack each other if there is even a smidgeon of difference…so how will we ever reach the ‘other’ side, the anti-vaxers etc?
I read your first post and was sort of on the side of Paul & GBJames when they called you out for focusing on ‘self’ and ignoring others.
But then I read your follow up. You are measured and serious and agree with them on almost everything…but have some questions and reservations – but THAT is what you are attacked for.
Maybe you are right, maybe wrong…but attacking your motives (‘you are selfish’, ‘the fact you ask that question…willful ignorance/selfishness’) reveals a paucity of good faith.
Maybe they are just frustrated, and are taking it out on you (I actually usually like their comments and ideas, so I feel this might be out of character for them).
Anyway, I don’t comment much, but this got to me. I took you at your word that you were ‘trying to understand’ and were positing questions. I thought your longer post would result in a good faith engagement of really good substance.
But quasi ad hominem’s and dismissal resulted.
And this from ‘this’ community.
(NB: I am 100% pro vax etc. Being from Australia, the american notions of libertarianism do seem designed to fulfil the ‘self’. But questions of autonomy vs the greater good etc still exist and must be engaged…and balanced with the science/evidence. I come looking for better thinking here. Questions encouraged. Dissent embraced and countered. I might as well just keep reading the twitter wars between the vax/anti-vax…).
Hopefully there is redemption as I read the rest of the comments…
Thanks Deni. I also don’t comment here too often but love the site (as a scientist professionally myself) and find the comments to often be thought-provoking and insightful. I too was dismayed by the response since I know about this subject. I think I made the mistake of commenting on a thread of an antivaxxer, not to defend that position, but to point out that there appear to be a few legit concerns about compulsory vaccination of adults. I am not a Republican nor a libertarian and have no ideological bent on this issue.
What are the few legit concerns?
On your body, in your body, makes no difference. The state can compel you to carry a rifle on your shoulder but the enemy’s bullets will be in your body. So what? The beauty of a vaccine mandate over a mask mandate is the former works better and is easier to enforce compliance with. Let the lawyers and the politicians worry about the legal issues—it’s their job.
There is no arbitrary efficacy level below which the state could not demand compliance with vaccination. If the benefit was greater than zero, why would the state not wish to preserve the lives of some number of citizens by making it compulsory? We don’t make flu vaccine compulsory even though its effectiveness is greater than zero because the political cost of preventing those flu deaths by compelling vaccination is too high, that’s all. Deaths of people in nursing homes is not an existential threat to the state. If a third of municipal police forces and fire departments were taken ill at the same time, that would be an existential threat.
Wrong, the law says otherwise.
Also, a vaccine that actually works but only protects 20% of the population is unapprovable by the FDA because they aren’t worth the effort of distributing them for so little protection. COVID vaccines developed by Russia and China and in use in those countries would fail to get FDA approval because they weren’t efficacious enough. Poor vaccines also risk creating a false sense of security among the public and can result in cavalier behavior which can make viral spread even worse than it otherwise would have been.
The fact that viral transmission is highly dependent on human behavior and both the virus and therapeutic options change with time makes this challenge more complex than most realize. The inconsistent and questionable public health guidance from the CDC and the WHO and govt policy are a testament to this difficulty.
True, below a certain level of efficacy, the American FDA will not approve a vaccine because benefit is not worth the effort of distribution. (Their advice to manufacturers of candidate Covid vaccines was that they would look at vaccines whose trials gave a point estimate of 50% for efficacy with a lower CI bound of 30%.). This is an important, if arbitrary, practical benchmark to guide resource management but it is not a rights-based question, which is what reader Alex was talking about. Nuance is important in parsing whether a compulsory action by the state is warranted in the present changing circumstances but you still need to be clear in your mind if you would ever compel. If you wouldn’t, ever, then it is disingenuous to claim that the current circumstances don’t meet some test of justification.
You know your own current laws but in extremis the state would enact whatever laws were necessary, including compulsory vaccination, to protect itself, (meaning its people), from extermination by a vaccine-preventable virus. Wouldn’t you (and Alex) want it to?
The return of smallpox to a population that is almost totally non-immune would kill a third of unvaccinated Americans and would blind half the survivors, most of them children and young adults. Many of the deaths would be in people who can’t take live-virus vaccines and so had to take their chances. The President is asked, “How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you (or the States) vaccinate everyone?”
“Oh, the law said we couldn’t compel vaccination.”
Thanks for the measured response. As I said, in this case I’m FOR mandatory COVID vaccination for now. The efficacy data is excellent and safety too. The calculus is easy for me. This pandemic has killed more Americans than the wars in WW1, WW2, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghainistan and disasters like 9/11 and Katrina combined. So it’s obviously a national crisis but COVID conditions could change in the future (less fatal variant, less effective vaccines, etc.) which might cause me to oppose mandatory vaccination rather than grant the govt carte blanche to push boosters every six months indefinitely and we can never unmask and return to a sense of normalcy.
Ivermectin may improve outcomes for some people who get infected with SARS-CoV-2 and develop COVID, but only in countries where parasitic nematode infections are very common. The mechanism could be that worms are a comorbidity factor for severe COVID. Ivermectin could moderate that comorbidity by killing your nematodes (if you live in a place where undiagnosed parasitism is common), but wouldn’t help you otherwise (if you live in a place where few people have nematode infections). There were lots of stories about this back in November. The nematode effect may or may not be real. Avi Bitterman gave a good summary, Astral Codex Ten had all the details.
I venture to say that the readers of WEIT will turn out to be the healthiest people in this country. As for those who choose to not be vaccinated, they need to be told that they can’t refuse vaccination while claiming equal rights and privileges with those who accept it. They can remain unvaccinated but they must accept the CONSEQUENCES, whether banned from entry to public places or forced to pay their own hospital bills, based on their risk to other people. The same punishment applies to those who run red lights or commit other dangerous anti social acts. Civil society does not confer
privileges or exemptions on those who refuse to abide by its constraints. If there is a deity, she has already shown her might: Covid cases and its resultant deaths are highest where anti vaccination people reside. Case closed. As for Weinstein and Heying, I remain puzzled but quite angry at their position, which gives ammunition to the irrational conspiracy theorists and other anti establishment kooks, something they should have predicted. And I am really disappointed at their quite
irrational justification for not getting vaccination. Irrationality does not befit evolutionary biologists.
It erases all credibility.
Off topic … I just quickly skimmed your blog … looks like a treasure. Looked at Athena (Prophetess). I like the idea of gendered nouns to go with our multi gendered pronouns.
I recommend Weiters to peruse Lorna’s blog 🙂
Is there really enough geographical variation in anti-vaxx action (inaction?) to see that (unsurprising) effect? Given that mortality rates are actually quite low (only about 5 times that of a major war) you’re going to need very high rates of anti-vaxx inactivity to get a regionally noticeable signal.
“Is there really enough geographical variation in anti-vaxx action (inaction?) to see that (unsurprising) effect? ”
You bet.There are databases, such as the Johns Hopkins one, that will give you numbers of cases, hospitalizations(?), and deaths on a per-person (or per-100,000 persons, more usually), by state in the US, and even by counties within the states. Vaccination rates are also available. Between the two, it’s fairly easy to see that the anti-vaxx areas are getting a lot harder hit than the areas with high vaccination rates.
I’m sympathetic to people deciding for themselves.
However, there is a societal cost I’m not willing to accept. I know dear older at-risk people who might need medical attention for other ailments, and who can’t take apparent measures to make a stay at a hospital less likely. For them it’s just what it is.
I’m not willing to accept that the unvaccinated clog up the hospitals because they wanted to avoid a tiny risk of harmful side effects from vaccines, but now infected with covid, need serious medical attention. And then others then pay for this with their very lives. That’s just unacceptable, and where I can understand the visceral hated for unvaccinated people, who appear egotististical and selfish.
Now we could make it so that unvaccinated go on triage, i.e. are served later when everyone else is covered, but I detest this solution because it could become a slippery slope. Hospitals might cut corners and get away with routine triage, which is even more horrendous.
The best solution is when the brave people opting for covid suicide, especually the freedom shouting right wingers, declare openly and freely that they won’t need and seek medical attention from covid, and to refrain from going to a hospital. This should be their new virtue signal to each other. They can then freely die alone at home and not bother society.
The slippery slope of de-prioritizing treatment for people who engage in risky behavior is a real mess. We might even look at how obesity affects the outcome of people infected with Covid or other diseases.
Gunshot wounds when the patient is a gang member?
How about Aids?
Not a place I want to go.
I posit the reason you don’t want to go to that place is that you live in a world without resource constraints. If things are tight, you just buy more resources or make some would-be consumers disappear by pricing them out of the market. In that world, denying care to the undeserving when you could care for them is just mean. In everyday life, we aren’t marooned in a lifeboat and don’t need to decide whom to eat today.
However, if there are no more ventilators, the next patient has to be hand-bagged until the respiratory therapist is exhausted and can’t squeeze the breathing bag any more. Then that patient dies unless someone overrides another family’s furious and armed objections and transfers a ventilator to that patient. If the principle of maximum likely benefit is applied, the doctor would know that vaccinated patients, or gunshot patients without Covid, are likely to need a ventilator for a much shorter time than unvaxxed Covid patients and are more likely to survive. Under that rule, the unvaxxed patient would be given comfort care, no ventilator.
But if the unvaxxed patient was already on a ventilator for 6 weeks, only (in Canada) the provincial Minister of Health acting in right of the Crown could take the machine away so it could be given to someone more likely to benefit, like the new patient with the exhausted RT. Doctors don’t want this responsibility any more than you want them to have it. But if no one does triage, fewer lives will be saved. Civilian politicians may prefer more deaths over having to order triage, happy that no death with a name can be tied to them come election time. The pandemic will soon be a bad memory, but the family of the unvaxxed patient the Minister killed will never forget.
We seem to be out of the woods this time. But if the ICUs get swamped in the future, I don’t doubt that unvaxxed Covid patients will not get intubated, not out of spite, but due to resource constraints. 60 days in the ICU is too long.
Several of my classmates in primary school wore leg braces due to childhood polio (yes I’m that old) and I recall that especially among my Catholic church approved rhythm method birth control using community (i.e. no birth control at all) there was an ongoing terror of Rubella among pregnant women due to it’s link to birth defects.
None of this happens anymore (although idiots like you are working hard to bring back previously eradicated childhood diseases) as everybody back then eagerly embraced vaccinations and due to their efforts you undoubtedly enjoyed a childhood mercifully free of those killer diseases.
What say you return the favour to your family, friends and community.
There is this stark image circulating now that models how many Covid deaths we would have without the vaccines: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2021/dec/us-covid-19-vaccination-program-one-year-how-many-deaths-and.
This shows how many lives have been saved, ‘ya Libertarian bastards.
Excellent piece. One of our best Presidents lived most of his life with polio. Had he still been alive in the early 50s when we started receiving those first shots, he would have been very happy. No one had to tell us it was mandatory. Mom was mandatory enough.
I should think that the prospect of living inside an Iron Lung for the remainder of one’s life would be a most compelling carrot to prompt one to take the polio vaccine in order to avoid so living.
I reject out of hand reader Alex’s contention that the state cannot compel vaccination. Of course it can. The state can compel the citizens to do anything that the state needs them to do to protect the state from an existential threat. If it can compel citizens, even pacifists and conscientious objectors, to put on the state’s uniform and carry a rifle against foreign invaders, which it can, it can certainly compel them to get vaccinated. If it had to, it would declare that a state of war exists, conscript the vaccine refusers into the army, and vaccinate them under military discipline. Different countries with different legal and constitutional traditions would frame the rationale according to those traditions but no state (except Afghanistan, apparently) will allow free-riders to destroy it by opting out of the obligation to suffer for it…or by fighting for the other side.
As my friend Paul Viminitz says, “Anyone who thinks that there are any inalienable rights has never been in a war [I would say, “on his own soil”] or a pandemic.” He goes on to imagine some pandemic that left all but six women in the whole world permanently infertile. How long do you think those six women would enjoy an inalienable right to control their own fertility? Rights are what the state can afford to let you have. Refusal of vaccination isn’t always on the list.
I think appeals to people’s better nature, thinking of someone other than yourself, are wasted on people like Alex. People who think of others have already gotten themselves vaccinated voluntarily, or maybe as the cost of being allowed to eat indoors at a restaurant table. The hard nuts to crack are the ones who reject the idea they have any obligation to not spread disease to their neighbours. They are the ones the state has to compel, just as it punishes draft evaders when it can’t convince enough volunteers. And sure, securing cooperation through appeals to better nature, or propaganda, or “nudges” is more pleasant than compulsion, but not necessarily more effective just because more pleasant, notwithstanding the nudgers’ arguments. All states must know how and when to compel. That’s what states do.
We can argue whether the pandemic of the unvaccinated, which it is, poses an existential threat to the state, justifying state compulsion.,…and whether mandatory vaccination would be effective in reducing the threat. (I happen to think it would but that’s beside my point.) Just recognize that politically there is a sense of proportion here. One preventable case of paralysis from polio in a child justifies a lot of compulsion. Death of someone with advanced Alzheimer’s who was going to die anyway in a few months may justify less. On the other hand, the burden we are compelling people to bear by getting vaccinated is a lighter one than making them stand up to a Russian tank while armed only with light anti-tank rockets. This is fundamentally a science-informed political argument, not a rights-based one, in my view. The state just has to decide if it wants to badly enough.
“I reject out of hand reader Alex’s contention that the state cannot compel vaccination.”
I agree completely, with a caveat.
That is, the elements of the state that do these things need to have the specific legal authority to do them. To borrow your example, The state can compel military service, but if you receive a letter from the Secretary of Agriculture, ordering you to report for induction, you can ignore it. The Joint Chiefs of Staff can all sign the letter, and it will still have no legal validity. Even in an emergency. There is a process for amending the Selective Service Act, and specific legislative bodies with the authority to implement the process, and in a particular sequence.
The CDC does not actually have the authority to allow your tenants to stop paying rent.
Similarly, the head of OSHA does not seem to have the unilateral authority to decide who must take what vaccinations, and who may be excused.
Unlike Alex, I support vaccine requirements. But they must be done properly, by those with the specific authority to implement them, and the knowledge to do so in medically appropriate ways. That also means checks and balances. If Doug Parker at OSHA were to be found to have unilateral authority to impose vaccination rules, He might decide that everyone needs a booster every 90 days until the end of time. In a future administration, an anti-vax nut might be appointed to his job, and decide that the power to require them also conveys the power to prohibit.
Any of that is super unlikely, but establishing the precedent of passing sweeping new and likely permanent powers to bureaucrats whenever a whisp of smoke is seen at the Reichstag, or even in a real emergency, seems spectacularly unwise.
Ahhh, thank you Max. Now there’s someone engaging with some of the nuanced arguments of state power, its limits, and the challenges of a dynamic and changing pandemic not only now but in the future with important implications.
All power to freedom of speech. If he has taken the vax option and still thinks it an authoritarian stance to mandate vaccinations then that’s the end of it.
What is not the ‘end of it’ is telling others to not vaccinate as he becomes the authority, purveyor of his own social laws and rules.
He believes there is no recourse, accountability for big pharmaceutical companies to pay retributions for failure. I’d say to this, have you not noticed the intense focus by global organisations, governments, specialists, scientists on covid vaccines. I believe a big pharma would be super aware of any possibility for failure.
To live in and around high-density populations rules and laws are made to allow… a life to function. As pointed out numerous times in the comments e.g. traffic signs, helmets etc. and the cost to others.
But what can’t be seen to the naked eye, for levity, a virus wearing a dark hooded cloak and wielding a scythe casting it’s eye around looking for a victim is not worth bothering our anthropic
Careful! The anti-vaxxers will start recommending nematode infection AND ivermectin as a COVID therapy. Anything but the vax!
I accept Alex’s plea for individual freedom to refuse covid vaccination. I also accept the argument made by others that the transmissibility of covid makes infected individuals into a social problem. Fortunately for all, these contradictory interests were reconciled long by very simple devices. In medieval times, lepers were tolerated, but had to wear special clothing, and sound bells or clappers when walking about, so as to warn the rest of society of their presence.
A few bits:
1) I was triple vaccinated when I got Omicron. Double vaccinated when I got Delta. Nonetheless, the course of the disease each time was mild and short-lived. That’s pretty damned good, I’d say.
2) Anecdotal, but: As of of the very few people with any experience with Ivermectin prior to the pandemic, I was appalled from the get-go that people were pimping this drug. I used it only on cattle and horses … but many thousands of cattle and dozens of horses. Uniformly, these animals *hated* the stuff, and spent an hour or more drooling white saliva like icicles, working their mouths to rid themselves of it. I realize that human doses surely don’t do that, but many people have in fact used the veterinary formulation … I doubt they would if they’d seen what I’ve seen.
3) Finally: Perhaps the underlying epidemic for all our woes is a kind of hyper-individualism, in which the very notion of “for the good of others” has been swallowed up by an overweening personalism, where everything is viewed not primarily, but close to only, through the lens of what I want to do RIGHT NOW and you can’t make me do anything else! This is, IMO, part of the “bowling alone” phenomenon long identified, and it’s only been exacerbated by the internet and particularly social media, which is literally designed to build echo chambers.
When even the manufacturer of Ivermectin state:
Then I become dubious of Ivermectin’s benefits regarding Covid.
My understanding was that some noted a correlation between Ivermectin use and the low death rates in Africa and it was speculated that Ivermectin was the cause.
…where much of the population are infested with intestinal worms that can cause aggressive infection when you take immune-suppressing steroids for Covid.
Your last sentence, bold, italic and flashing.
“I got a long email, for example, from Heather Heying, who very politely tried to convince me of the error of my ways.”
If she purports to be rational and “data-driven,” I trust she made a reasonable effort to offer objective evidence in support of her position.
This caught my eye tonight. An Ipsos poll done for Fortune has found signs of a possible opinion shift beginning among the unvaccinated.
Utterly ignored in “pro-choice” laser-focused vaccine discussion – as if it is in a vacuum – is the fact of the “real world”, and the myriad serious health concerns in it, that are still in play.
The assumption appears to be all else is perfectly accounted for, but the coronavirus. The self-centered view, “If I get a coronavirus, big deal – only the tough survive – I’m tough.”
One simply does not know and cannot follow all the potential infiltrations and threats to one’s health in each moment of the day, nor can they react effectively all the time. You can only hold your breath so long near that one unvaccinated person. We all should know that by now.
That is the “big picture” relief that medicine delivers – we do not need to live in terror of smallpox (eradicated from the face of the Earth), of myriad other threats –
But the *point* of this comment, is that coronavirus is merely one threat among many that in total weigh on the individual’s body, only one in the balance, the sum of which is the problem.
Apologies, long winded, but medicine is better than nothing.
There was a time when “Claptonesque” was high praise indeed. Sic transit gloria mundi.
US Population: Approx., 330 million
Deaths from COVID (directly): 883,000
Look around you: (If you are a USian) One out of every 374 of your fellow citizens has died directly from COVID-19. In a period of just now two years.
This ought to be very sobering.
Oh Alex, you are surrounded by laws that exist to protect others, which is what vaccine mandating is all about. One example would be speed limits, those nasty laws that attempt to keep people from driving 150 mph and are punitive by costing said speeders a lot of money! Another example is the prohibition of driving while under the influence of alcohol. Again, a nasty law that punitively costs the poor offenders money and, of course, the violation of both laws can potentially result in lost licenses. The fines could take food out of the offenders’ children’s mouths and possibly result in job loss due to lack of transportation (and maybe save some lives in the process – oh right, that’s the point). Let’s just get rid of all laws that exist to protect others!
Also a layperson here, vaccinated. The rationale for requiring vaccines isn’t very clear to me.
1. To ensure public health – the vaccines reduce incidence of severe disease but don’t prevent vaccinated people from getting infected or spreading the disease. So from a public health perspective you could spread the disease whether you are vaccinated or not.
2. To ensure your health: it’s a personal risk- reward calculation and not everyone views the risks the same way. If you are not in a category that has higher risk of severe disease, you could conclude the shot isn’t for you. Eg Djokovic. Given the data on myocardial infarctions affecting young men, you could decide that risk is too high relative to the risk of contracting mild covid.
3. To protect vulnerable people: the only reasonable way to do that is to require everyone congregating in a large group to test prior to participating. If you’re positive, stay out.
Also confusing is the lack of acceptance of prior covid infection as evidence of inoculation from the disease. With studies showing naturally acquired immunity being quite as good or even better than vaccine acquired, there is just no clarity or logic in the guidelines.
Every assertion you make here is wrong.
1. Getting vaccinated can prevent you from getting infected. There’s a high probability of that. If you’re not infected, you can’t spread the disease. Why are you making these crazy statements?
2. Mandates are there to protect public health, not necessarily to insure the individual’s health. Nobody, in fact, is forced to be vaccinated unless they interact with others. That’s why Djokovic wasn’t let into Australia. He doesn’t have to take the jab, but he does if he wants to play tennis with others, for he might infect others. Mandates do not apply to people who work with other people. But i tell you, Djokovic was crazy to risk covid on the slight chance of a heart condition. We already know the relative risks, and for nearly everyone they militate towards jabs. However, as I said–and which you seem too obtuse to understand–mandates don’t require anybody to get a jab UNLESS THEY MIGHT BE A DANGER TO OTHERS. And governments have the power to make such decisions.
3. To quote you, “To protect vulnerable people: the only reasonable way to do that is to require everyone congregating in a large group to test prior to participating. If you’re positive, stay out.” I have to ask: are you insane? What bout protecting people in old people’s homes or hospitals. You don’t have to have people congregating in groups there to require vaccination for caregivers.
4. No, naturally acquired immunity varies, and you can’t be sure that getting Covid makes you less likely to get further invected than getting the jabs. As the CDC says,
And, of course, YOU DON’T WANT TO GET COVID IN THE FIRST PLACE, WHICH IS WHY YOU GET THE JAB. If you get it and don’t want to interact with anybody else (IF you get better), you don’t need the shots.
I simply cannot tolerate this level of nonsense on this website. Did you actually look up the data that don’t support your hypothesis, ignore it, or are parroting what you’ve heard from antivaxxers.
It doesn’t matter. You are promulgating ignorance and your failure to check the facts could endanger others. I will not tolerate this on my website. It’s like telling parents that they don’t have to get their kids vaccinated for school because that’s the “parent’s choice.”
I will assume you ask your questions in good faith (I know people who are actively anti-vax, but also people who have such questions, or who find it hard to get the right info amongst all the ‘noise’ of false information. I also know pro-vaxers whose reasons are flawed).
Mr Coyne has provided (minus the insults (now I’m in trouble!)) sound rebuttals and information to your questions/perceptions.
I would be interested if you have read his answer, and will be investigating the information provided, with an open mind to perhaps modifying your views?
Do you know how to check the information – I was wondering if that is the issue?
Do you distrust the sources of information that counter your view? (I wonder what method you use to have ‘trust’ in the sources that brought you to your present conclusions).
Your points are the common misconceptions of those against vaccinations – and while they get countered and corrected time and again, they persist. So I am keen to really find out if you are open to information, or do you feel at this stage that you will stick with your ideas?
To me, it’s like when a creationist calls evolution ‘just a theory’, and we correct their lay definition with the scientific definition of ‘theory’ – only to find the same creationist using that ‘slur’ again the next day. That is not good faith. That is deliberate mis-information.
So if you are in ‘good faith’ (Sartre-esque, not Jebus-esque), I would be keen to know if real dialogue is possible, and if you are really prepared to change your mind. Our frustration is that few seem to be.