An Exploration of Key Topics Shaping the Future.

Vaccinations and Spread: The Dangerous Myth That Vaccinated People Don’t Spread Covid-19

  • October 2021 Update:
    • Provax vs antivax.
    • The Real Impact of Vaccines is a score, not binary.
    • Spread With Delta Variant (6.5).
    • The score on spread reduction: 2x? 3x?
    • The score on death prevention: 10x reduction?
    • Vaccine passports: Good and Bad!
  • Original Content: July 2021

Pro-vax vs Anti-vax

Why Anti-vax?

The term “antivax” is well established, and is used to describe people who the person using the term feels has an irrational negative attitude to being vaccinated. The reasons for not being wanting to be vaccinated quoted include:

  1. Vaccinations are all some conspiracy.
    • Sigh
  2. I am young and healthy so I do not need the vaccine.
  3. It is my choice to take the risk or not.
    • Not being vaccinated places others at risk as well.

Being vaccinated does help protect others, because a vaccinated person is less likely to infect others. While being vaccinated does not guarantee against infecting others, the risk of infecting others is at least halved, and on some evidence could even be reduced by a factor or three. A group of people exposed to the virus would statistically infect as most half the people. A halved spread rate can make the difference between a growing outbreak that reaches and infects thousands, and a potential outbreak that never takes off and is limited to less than 100. The cumulative effect can easily be underestimated. Being vaccinated saves lives, and makes a far bigger difference to the community that just protecting the individual.

Pro-Vax can also be a problem.

Some ‘pro-vax’ people apply a similar level of confirmation bias as ‘anti-vaxers’, just in the opposite direction. Applying positive confirmation bias to information on vaccines can lead to people making or believing disprovable claims, some even easily disprovable, which once disproved only increase doubt over what is real and what is not.

Examples included believing that no vaccinated person will ever die, or that vaccinated people never spread the virus. A person with either of these high expectations may have their beliefs shattered when they hear of a vaccinated person dying, or infecting a family member.

The Real Impact of Vaccines is A Score, not a Binary yes/no.

The Problems From Reducing Everything to “yes” or “no”, without a ‘score’.

We sometimes live in the age of the check box, where everything is reduced to a binary “yes” or “no”. I recall seeing a comparison of cars with a checkbox for “ABS brakes” and thinking, “really, so any ABS even one that barely works at all, should result in braking systems being considered equal?”. A system which assigns a ‘score’ to how effective the brakes are solves the problems, but requires more engagement than a simple checkbox. Reducing everything to checkboxes simplifies comparisons, but may also lead to product makers simply finding the simplest way to tick each box. In the same way, reducing the impact of vaccines to binary is another example of this simplified approach being problematic.

Binary Positions with vaccines.

The pattern or “reducing to the simplest” also takes place with vaccines. Most questions of any merit require an answer with a ‘score’, and not a simply binary yes/no. Many people insist on the the binary yes/no, and the result is a ‘wrong’ question.

  • Wrong questions have binary answers:
    • Do vaccinated people still die: yes or no.
    • Can vaccinated people still spread the virus: yes or no.
  • Right Questions Requiring A ‘Score’:
    • Does vaccination prevent most deaths: yes, 90% of deaths are prevented, and maybe more.
    • Does vaccination reduce spread: yes, by reducing spread by 2x or 3x, entire outbreaks can be prevented.

The right questions are not a simple as the wrong one. Much harder to include in a 140 character tweet and require a longer attention span.

This leads to many people falling back to the binary, which results in:

  • People in favour of vaccines deciding that it must be that no vaccinated people die, and that there will be no spread amongst vaccinated people.
  • People who see that there are still deaths and spread and as a result believe vaccination does not achieve its stated goals and so it must all be some conspiracy.

What a mess.

Spread With The Delta Variant: 6.5.

Although an actual spread rate will vary depending on the environment, the r0 number for the delta variant is assumed to be between 5 and 8, and typically between 6 and 7.

“For the delta variant, the R0 is now calculated at between six and seven,” Wenseleers says. So it’s two- to three-times as contagious as the original version of SARS-CoV-2 (R0 = 2 to 3) but less contagious than the chickenpox (R0 = 9 to 10).

The Delta Variant Isn’t As Contagious As Chickenpox. But It’s Still Highly Contagious (also at NPR.org)

The score on reduction of spread: 2x? 3x?

Unfortunately, the answer is not quite so simple as just one number, as effectiveness changes considerably with time following either vaccination or infection. Although the studies quoted here do give specific numbers, some caution is advised.

With relation to the current COVID-19 virus, the R0 for the Delta variant is between 6.0 and 7.0. This means that one person infected with the COVID-19 Delta variant can infect 6-7 people, who then can each go on to infect another 6-7 people, and so on. This is nearly double that of the original strain of COVID-19, which had an R0 of between 2.0 and 3.0.

It was originally assumed, that as with many viruses, it would be extremely rate that successfully people successfully would ever still spread the virus. Almost like typhoid Mary with the Typhoid bacteria, but the Covid-19 spreads even when people are asymptomatic, resulting in most estimated of spread being in the longer term reduced by at least 2x, and more likely 3x, although for a short time after vaccination much lower amount of spread can be recorded.

The score on death prevention: 10x reduction?

Thirty-five fully vaccinated people have now died in NSW’s Delta outbreak, with three fully vaccinated patients among the seven deaths recorded yesterday.

While that’s about 11 per cent of the total 316 deaths since this outbreak began, experts say other risk factors are also at play — including age and underlying health issues.

ABC News, 29 Sept 2021 : A small number of fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 in NSW have died.

A big problem with statistics from the field, is that they require interpretation, and that interpretation allows a lot of scope for confirmation bias. In this case, the press article does seem apply confirmation bias to downplay the number of deaths.

In reality, the raw data is that less that 50% of the population was fully vaccinated over the time period, and 11% of deaths came from the less than 50% who were fully vaccinated.

Yes, the frail and elderly are overrepresented in deaths of fully vaccinated people, but the frail and elderly are also overrepresented in deaths amongst the vaccinated. While not all deaths are frail and/or elderly, frail and elderly people are at greater risk from Covid-19. Because frail and elderly people are at greater risk, these people were allocated vaccines first, which means the population of vaccinated people over the time span is also heavily weighted towards the frail and elderly. On May 3, vaccines opened for the over 50s, but prior to that date, they were only for people in aged care, with other special needs, or health care workers. It was August 30 before the Pfizer vaccine was available to under 40s, and with health warnings and medical clearance requires in place for under 40s to receive AstraZenica, very few under 40s were fully vaccinated before August 30th.

So for the period of this data, the vaccinations were heavily weighted towards people over 40. This complicates interpreting the data. Less frail and elderly people were unvaccinated, so there were less frail and elderly unvaccinated people for comparison in the statistics.

In the end, that number is small, the breakdown of the numbers is complex, but any conclusion that 11% of deaths over the period is a distortion in one specific direction is just guesswork.

A better and more comprehensive analysis is available from UK data, where 94% of adults have immunity, yet the 7 day average of death reached 143 on September 21, 2021. Given the highest ever UK 7 day average of 1244 and January 26th 20210 was not 10x higher, then even if we assume that the pandemic would otherwise be at that worst every point ever right now if not for vaccines, then the reduction in deaths is still less than 10x.

At this time, a 10x reduction is deaths is all we can assume. A 10x reduction in the chance of dying is certainly something worthy of bothering to get vaccinated for, but not sufficient reason to then totally abandon all caution.

Vaccine passports: Good and Bad!

Here is the for and against summary for vaccine passports:

  • For:
    • Passports provide an incentive for people to be vaccinated.
    • As vaccinated people have reduced spread rates, events open only the vaccinated have reduced risk.
  • Against:
    • Vaccinated people do still present a risk, and a vaccinated person from an area with more than 2x the infection rate should still be required to quarantine.
    • Vaccination passports can falsely create the impression of invulnerability

Original Content: July 2021

Confirmation of reality: Extensive spread even if vaccinated.

A new study shows the Delta Covid-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected.

CNN Health: July 2021

Note that once infected, the amount of virus is similar. This does not mean that spread is necessarily the same within a vaccinated group as within an unvaccinated group, as depending on how the ambiguous ‘infected’ is interpreted, there may be less risk of being ‘infected’ when vaccinated, and it is also possible that similar amounts of virus many not result is similar infectivity.

It is still most likely that being vaccinated reduces spread, but what is becoming clear is that reduction of spread is not elimination of spread. Given the delta strain is twice as infectious as the original, then unless being vaccinated means less than half the risk of spread following vaccination, a fully vaccinated population would experience as much spread of Covid-19 delta variant, as occurred within unvaccinated populations and the original virus.

People should still get vaccinated as it will massively reduce their own risk, and it still will like reduce the risk of spread to others, but being vaccinated is not a panacea or reason to abandon other measures.

We Know Elimination of Spread is a myth, but many pretend, or even lie anyway.

There Is Clear Data on Spread Amongst Vaccinated.

While it is only recently we have studies showing just how infectious vaccinated people can be, it has long been clear that being vaccinated will not necessarily block infection. Examples of people being aware of the reality include the case of the UK health secretary, who under the rules for the UK went into lockdown despite having tested positive to Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Note that the UK prime minister Boris Johnson, initially was going to not isolate despite being a close contact of the health minister because Boris Johnson is not only fully vaccinated but has also famously been previously infected, but Boris Johnson was forced to ‘backflip’ and go into isolation as scientific advice was that he could still not only be infected but also spread the virus.

Yet there are commercial interests that promote the fairy tale that “vaccinated people won’t spread the virus” because it can allow commercial activities that clearly, when facing reality, are life threatening if allowed on a large scale. Vaccine passports promoted as suggesting holders need not quarantine is just one example.

Nowhere has yet achieved Herd Immunity through vaccinations alone.

If there is herd immunity, then case numbers gradually drop to zero. Although case numbers almost everywhere have experienced declines, the declines always slow down as numbers dwindle. This indicates that the high immunity of recently infected people is critical to achieving herd immunity.

Government Policy Based On Myths Could Be Tragic.

The Dangers of Subscribing To The Myth.

Unlike the myth of Santa Claus, where it can be said that telling people things you know are not true can be benign and yet make them happy, this myth is definitely dangerous.

The national news program last night declared that Australia would require 80% of the entire population to be vaccinated in order for life to be able to return to normal with the delta variant of Covid-19. The problem is, the data presented clearly completely unreal, and seems to assume zero fully vaccinated people become infected. So what is the reality? The reality is there will be no herd immunity at 80% vaccination levels, just reduced hospitalisations as a result of the vaccinations. Policy tells the population one thing, when reality is another. One people are convinced they cannot spread Covid-19 following vaccination, their behaviour is likely to be reckless. Unlike the Santa myth that is used to encourage good behaviour, this myth can also encourage bad behaviour.

Grattan Institute Report: Simplistic Statistical Lies.

It can seem simple. If in an unvaccinated population the virus spread to 5 people, once 80% (4 in 5) are vaccinated, then the spread will be to 1 person or less. ‘Herd Immunity’. Except this only works if vaccinated people cannot spread the virus. You would think, just weeks after the fully vaccinated UK health minister tested positive and need to in isolation, and his close contact, previously infected and vaccinated Prime Minister Boris Johnson went into lockdown, that thinktanks would be advising the Australian government that vaccinated people can be infected, and potentially spread the disease.

In fact, with the UK at over 80% immunity levels once the effects of vaccinations and prior infections are both taken into account, guesswork is not required to see that infection numbers do rise even with 80% immunity, as it is happening in Britain. Herd immunity is not achieved, and the only hope is that with sufficient people vaccinated, deaths will be low. However, deaths in Britain with 80% immunity are currently at around 100 per day, so the question as to whether that is ‘low enough’ and other consequences can be tolerated is still to be determine. However, but the time Australia does reach 80% immunity, then there will be more data.

Theoretical model that conflicts with real world data from the UK.

The question is how a group who advise government can predict that 80% will actually provide herd immunity, and that if there are outbreaks, as shown in the news article on 29 July 2021 on abc news, these outbreak would produce only around 10 deaths per outbreak is frightening. The UK has proven that as fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus, herd immunity is not achieved, and case numbers continue with deaths at levels many times those the models being used project.

No more lockdowns, no more capacity limits on venues, and that is the point as well when we can start opening up international borders.

Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute, on ABC news July 29, 2021.

This is a cause for concern, but at least the advice is not to open up before 80% levels, and hopefully by that time wise heads will prevail.

Update 17th August: Finally, Now the ABC also reports Herd Immunity does not appear possible.

Implications for Living With Covid-19.

There are choices as to what future countries aim for:

The problem created by the myth, is that if living with Covid-19 there will be very low rates of infection as everyone is vaccinated. The reality is that all evidence suggests that spread among vaccinated people of the delta strain is at least as prevalent as spread with unvaccinated people of the original Covid-19 virus.

Given that everyone locked down before hospitals overloaded with the original strain, the lower hospitalisation rate means we can expect the delta virus to spread to unprecedented levels with a vaccinated community. The positive news is that the chance of being hospitalised may be reduced by 90% to 95% as a result of being vaccinated.

However, as with the vaccinated health secretary, this ‘immunisation’ is against serious disease, not all disease. So over time, it seems certain everyone will have the disease ten or even twenty times. Which means, back to be hospitalised, although perhaps only after a year or two instead of first time around.

Conclusion.

Sorry, but like the pandemic, it is not over. But I will be trying to add a conclusion to this page soon,

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