Before departing from Maskachusetts last month in the Cirrus SR20 (ferry trip to her new home in the Florida Free State), I mentioned to a woman in the old neighborhood that I’d be visiting a family at their oceanfront house as my first stop. “The dad is my friend and he’s the only one who is vaccinated,” I volunteered. “The kids are slender, healthy and in their late 20s so I can understand their point of course, but the wife is around 60 and could perhaps benefit, though she also is slender and fit.”
Neighbor: “They’re idiots.”
Me: “As it happens, they’re Black.”
Neighbor: “Oh, well, ….” (the “idiot” statement was walked back to a discourse regarding why it wouldn’t make sense for Black people to listen to anything that scientists say)
The neighbor’s car (Chevy Bolt with Bernie bumper sticker):
(Bernie wanted her to live in a town where a vacant buildable lot costs $1 million (minimum 2-acre zoning).)
On arrival, I learned that when you have an oceanfront house it seems that you’re going to be quite popular all summer. The unvaccinated kids (late 20s) had about 6 similar-age friends visiting. All of them, as it turned out, were unvaccinated and resented the government’s attempts to coerce them into getting stuck with a medicine that is extremely unlikely to help them unless the mass vaccination campaign breeds a super deadly version of the coronavirus (see Marek’s Disease). I comforted them at dinner (out on the screen porch and following the CDC guidelines that coronavirus cannot spread when unmasked people sit at restaurant tables): “It probably won’t do you more harm than a week of binge drinking.”
(One of the young people had the idea of running a restaurant where students received music lessons and other kinds of education. “If they’re sitting at a table being served food, they don’t need to wear masks, even if the governor orders students in schools to wear masks.”)
My favorite recent Apple News screen, in which a confused grandfather (of a child who yielded $2.5 million tax-free for the smart plaintiff) has lost patience and scapegoats responsible for all of our woes have been identified:
Separately, it seems that the current crop of vaccines may be worthless from a public health point of view (could still be useful for an at-risk individual who stays in his/her/zir/their bunker 99 percent of the time). “Benefit of COVID-19 vaccination accounting for potential risk compensation” (Nature, August 11, 2021):
With very high vaccine efficacy (E = 0.95), substantial benefit is maintained except in situations where there is a very low probability of infection in the population. If the vaccine efficacy decreases to 0.8, the benefit gets eroded easily with modest risk compensation.
Risk compensation needs to be factored carefully when appraising COVID-19 vaccination strategies. The simplified model used here suggests that even negligible risk compensation can eliminate the benefit of a vaccine of low efficacy, and it also takes only 2.5-fold increase in exposures for the benefit of a vaccine of moderate efficacy (E = 0.6) to disappear unless the probability of infection in the population of interest is very high.
(The most familiar example of risk compensation is a person driving 75 mph in a pavement-melting SUV. He/she/ze/they feels invulnerable due to seatbelts, 17 airbags, and 6,000 lbs. of steel. He/she/ze/they would drive only 50 mph, perhaps, in a lighter car without seatbelts or airbags. Since kinetic energy rises as the square of velocity, the risk of death in an accident might end up being roughly the same as if the driver were in a less thoroughly armored vehicle. See “Condoms and seat belts: the parallels and the lessons” (Lancet) for some references.)
In other words, a less-than-perfect vaccine slows down an epidemic only if people don’t change their behavior as a result of being vaccinated. A person who decides that it is okay to travel on commercial airliners once again, for example, is risk compensating. I’ve observed this behavior in New England. The (mostly) vaccinated population ceased wearing masks on the day that the government stopped ordering them to do so (a couple of months later, of course, it was “Simon Says Masks On” and they all complied with that too!). Fauci-following Democrats who refused to meet me outdoors for coffee pre-vaccination would step in for hugs after they’d received the magic elixir.
Let’s combine the above with July 2021 data (i.e., regarding the delta variant) on breakthrough infections. “Resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in a Highly Vaccinated Health System Workforce” (NEJM), Table 1:
Vaccine effectiveness was only 65 percent in July 2021 and therefore risk compensation by those who’ve been told by Drs. Fauci and Biden that vaccines are valuable will wipe out the benefit of the vaccines.
I was on a Zoom meeting with some folks from grad school. A friend’s wife is a Ph.D. biologist. She has gone back into her bunker, despite being vaccinated. “The reason that people think vaccines are helpful,” she said, “is that they’re combining data from pre-Delta and Delta. With Delta, the infection and fatality rates aren’t that different for the vaccinated and unvaccinated.”
Israel and the Delta variant:
In a country that has vaccinated 80 percent of those eligible, deaths are about 3/4 of where they were in the fall of 2020, when nobody in Israel was vaccinated.
- “It may take ‘many, many’ more vaccine mandates to end the Covid-19 pandemic, Fauci says” (CNN, 9/13): “I believe that’s going to turn this around because I don’t think people are going to want to not go to work or not go to college … They’re going to do it,” Fauci told CNN’s Jen Christensen during an interview at the NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, convention Sunday. “You’d like to have them do it on a totally voluntary basis, but if that doesn’t work, you’ve got to go to the alternatives.”
- “Fauci says he supports a vaccine mandate for air travel.” (NYT, 9/13): Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said … that he would support a vaccine mandate for air travelers. “I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, that you should be vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci [said]