People Are Often Guinea Pigs, Mostly Without Safeguards.
People were guinea pigs when a whole generation of kids grew up watching tv, and again now with a generation growing up exposed to social media. People become guinea pigs so often that it doesn’t make the news anymore, but we should not just ignore that it happens.
At least with vaccines, there are sound processes, mostly staffed by well intentioned normal people who are not all part of some conspiracy as some believe, to reduce the risk posed by the experiment, but it is still an experiment.
The Safety Experiment: What Are The Risks.
And being vaccinated is not always completely harmless. Vaccines don’t even fight disease or hang around in your body beyond a couple of weeks, but they give your body a look at something that looks a little like the virus, and your bodies own reaction to that triggers your immune system, and your own immune system:
Does fight future infections.
Is ‘primed’ in a way that lasts at least several months and maybe for ever.
Can, in admittedly rare cases, can cause problems that make people unwell or even die.
The assessment is that for most people, exposure to Covid-19 without vaccination is a far, far more risky experiment than vaccination. At least most countries have decided that for over 12, while other countries have only decided that for over 16s. The young fit and healthy can still die from Covid-19, but their risk is reduced, so at this time, it is assumed that risk/benefit for the very young becomes questionable. If you are under 16, it would seem to be less certain what is best.
Vaccine Risk vs Infection Risk.
Getting vaccinated means you will get the vaccine for certain, while it may not be certain you will ever be infected with the virus. There have been situations, like in Australia in early 2021, when there was more immediate risk from the vaccine than the virus, because at that time, no one was being infected within Australia. It did not take long for the odds to be reversed in Australia, but if you live somewhere that the virus will not reach, then the equation changes.
So if you live in a location with no Covid-19 around or you are under 16 or not much older, then it can make sense to hold off on being vaccinated.
There is the adage “do your own research”, but the cost of the lab, test equipment and medical facilities is quite prohibitive, and allocating friends and family to the placebo group could be problematic.
For those over 16 in locations where the virus is circulating, the evidence is very compelling from existing research that it is better to be guinea pig for the effects of the vaccine than a guinea pig for the effects of the virus.
The Effectiveness Experiment: The Forgotten Risk.
All vaccine trials check not only for safety, but also for ‘efficacy’. At first I thought if I have a vaccine with 90% efficacy, that must mean I would be then 90% protected. It turn out, no, this is not necessarily the case. Unlike the virus, vaccines themselves are basically harmless, and when there is harm, it is the reaction of our bodies own immune system that causes the problems. You could think of an allergic response as like an anxiety, an overreaction to something that was not really a threat. With the original vaccinus or “from the cow” (origin of the word ‘vaccine’) there was an injection of a real cowpox virus, but most modern vaccines are not just less dangerous than the target disease, they present no threat at all.
There is simply no need for our body to produce any immune reaction to the vaccine at all. The desired response is that our immune system if fooled into responding, even when there is no need.
On one hand we don’t want people to dangerously overreact, but there can also be a percentage people with no reaction at all. If a person’s immune system correctly determines the vaccine is not even a threat, then as within around 2 weeks, the vaccine will be gone, and the person will be no more immune than the were before.
A component of vaccine ‘efficacy’ is the percentage of people have the same risk after vaccination as they did before vaccination.
Secret Covid-19 Future: The Truth From a politician?
It seems in Australia we have a genuine conspiracy to deceive the public. This is a conspiracy in two steps, with many conspirators only committed to the more benign step one, but likely being drawn into the more worrying step2.
The Two Step Conspiracy: The People Don’t Know What’s Best.
A Conspiracy, really? Who are the conspirators and why?
International Consequences and A Breakup of Australia?
The Two Step Conspiracy: The People Don’t Know What’s Best.
Step 1: The Santa Claus Vaccination Plan.
Most parents let their children believe the white lie: “If you are good, Santa will bring you presents”.
The Santa story, using a little bribery since children are too young to understand that being good is its own reward. As parents, we seem to feel this is harmless and, the end justifies the means.
The same principle is applied with the public and vaccinations. Internationally, there have been various attempts to provide a reward for being vaccinated, as insufficient members of the public seem to understand that being vaccinated is also its own reward.
So, some governments in Australasia, particularly Australian national government, push a post vaccination “paradise only better” mythical world awaits vaccinated people, as a way to motivate people who don’t understand vaccination is its own reward.
This is an even easier sell in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne where previous zero-covid-19 now “paradise lost”.
Those who do not like deceit in general, don’t look too closely are the reality of the promise, as there is no real question about the benefits of vaccination, so even if the promise is questionable, surely the end justifies the means.
Given the motive at this step is all about getting people vaccinated, it is not difficult to get health care professionals on board. There is a desperate need to overcome provide some of the public with a vision of a rosy future, and these are not always the most reasonable people.
A vaccination centre at the Melbourne Town Hall would be shut until Monday after several of its staff were physically and verbally abused on their way to work, operator cohealth said on Thursday.
In fact, it becomes understandable for politicians to start to treat some of the public like children. But even if it is understandable, is it acceptable? It is valid to suggest “Santa Claus is coming” in the form of a post vaccine paradise, even after they have realised reality looks different.
There may be a degree of white lie, but some can excuse themselves as they are not spreading the lie, just not revealing the truth of what will happen after vaccinations.
Step 2: Government knows what’s right for public, so ‘railroading’ is justified.
Step 1, using a false promise to encourage people to people vaccinated is arguably relatively harmless, but it is step 2, the railroading of the public into the governments chosen path following vaccination, could potentially cost thousands of lives.
When vaccinations began back in March 2021, the original plan was that once vaccination levels achieved herd immunity, border restrictions to prevent spread of covid-19 could be safely removed. It has since become clear that target levels of vaccination will not achieve herd immunity, but the government plans to open anyway, despite the almost certain consequence of a Covid-19 death toll and hospitalisation rate far higher than seen in Australia or New Zealand previously during the pandemic.
The Australian government may feel the cost in potential lives lost is justified by trade and economic benefits of open borders, but does that excuse hiding the implications of opening from the public?
Use reduced transmission through vaccinations to improve zero-covid-19 of ‘past paradise’, and continue to work towards a goal of “herd immunity“.
Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to “live with Covid-19” even without herd immunity.
This second step of the conspiracy is for the government to keep secret that vaccination targets no long provide herd immunity, and open anyway without allowing and debate as to whether this is what the public wants. The government choice may turn out best, but if so, why block debate in a democracy?
Originally it was thought when sufficient people were vaccinated, there would be herd immunity. Herd immunity with herd immunity cases would fall even after opening borders, giving the benefits of both choices. Now it is not yet proven that herd immunity is even possible.
The government wants to prevent any public debate on which option to choose.
The Australian government attitude is that, just as there people who do not know what is good for them and do not want to be be vaccinated, there are also people who don’t want borders open if too many deaths will follow, and they don’t know what is good for them either.
Step 2 is to keep it hidden that targets do not represent herd immunity and there will likely be many deaths per day following opening, allowing government to choose the next step without “messy” consultation or any need to ensure public support.
The Secret Behind Stage2: Paradise Lost With Delta.
Past Paradise: The Relatively Normal Life During Covid-19.
To understand why the reality how life after vaccine targets as planned by the government has to be kept secret, requires understanding how different live in Australia and New Zealand has been up to July 2021.
It has been no secret that, for most of pandemic up until July 2021, New Zealand and Australia were the places to be. Most of the time there were few restrictions New Zealand and the states of Australia, with the exception for some of the time of the state of Victoria and particularly the city of Melbourne. Every day life was quite normal, although restaurants and other venues did technically require 3d barcodes to be scanned, or least have people go through the motions of scanning, in order to record their visit, life was almost the same as pre pandemic. Except for one big restriction: international arrivals were limited and had to endure quarantine. In reality, apart from the quarantine, life was quite normal. No face masks or limitations to gatherings, even when attending full capacity sporting, or other stadium events.
Apart from a few rare outbreaks, no one was getting ill or dying, as there was simply zero-covid-19. Outside of Melbourne, Australia had less than 100 deaths from locally acquired infections, and New Zealand less than 20. Life was for most people, for most of the pandemic, unchanged except for those pesky travel/border restrictions, which was why so many celebrities were sitting out Covid-19 down under.
However, the national government was always strong opposed to the travel/border restrictions. They disrupted tourism and international trade, and the national government in Australia never felt it was worth disrupting trade to achieve zero-covid-19. Even the New Zealand government was running out of patience for tourism and trade. Vaccines have always been seen as the way to border and travel restrictions, so life could fully return to normal.
“Paradise” came at a cost: border/travel restrictions. Not even an option for most countries, but delivering a paradise for both Australia and New Zealand.
The Big Secret: From Paradise, To A Future Being Similar to the US or UK.
But now we get to the big secret: Instead of a return to life up to July 2021 in Australia, lifting border restrictions in Australia after reaching vaccination targets will most likely deliver a future similar to that in countries with similar vaccination levels who never had the same border restrictions. Like life in countries such the allies of the AUKUS alliance, the UK and US.
With Australia heading for similar levels of immunity to the UK and US, and planning to move to a similar policy border policy in respect of Covid-19, it should be not surprise that the result may be similar. But Australians are just not ready for that result.
The Big Secret: The Reveal, Denials, Attacks and Outrage.
There was outrage at suggesting Australia could see 80 deaths a day following the lifting of border restrictions, even thought, the projection is consistent with outcomes in other countries that do not have border restrictions. Consider daily deaths in the UK and the US:
Both countries have a larger population than Australia, so the figures need to be adjusted to deaths per 100,000 and applied to Australia’s population, results in these numbers for Australia:
55 deaths per day based on the UK where immunity is higher than Australian targets.
155 deaths per day based on the US with immunity as levels similar to Australian targets.
The 80 deaths per day suggested by Anastasia Palaszczuk, the leader of government in the state of Queensland, is certainly consistent with the numbers from the US and UK, as fact checked below. Yet Anastasia Palaszczuk was attacked and highly questionably fact checked as being “misleading” by Australia’s national broadcaster.
The claim of misleading was based on:
The figure of 80 deaths per day not being the only future included in the modelling.
Data in the modelling suggestion 80 deaths per day would no continue as lockdowns (even though not considered at a such a time in national government strategies) would likely be introduced.
Technically the quote is misleading as it draws not only on the modelling, but also on Australian government stated policy. Perhaps the quick quote should have been something like “if you used the data from modelling and assume current policy will be applied…”?
Yet, even the denial did not dispute that the main substance of the statement was in fact correct. The projections do show deaths of this magnitude, and in reality, looking the data, it does not seem logical to expect a different outcome.
To me this qualifies as a denial, and it seems the denial attracted more coverage than the original statement, which is why I have quoted a link to the “fact check”, and no link to the original reveal. In fact I found more then 5 sites reporting this denial, and none reporting the original reveal in any context other than in order to report the denial.
The Attacks and Outrage.
Annastasia Palaszczuk is questioning if and when borders should be reopened, given the death toll that will likely result. The problem is, given the strength of distain by the national government for any restriction on borders, even suggesting a discussion on how to proceed triggers the “pr” machine in response.
All the attacks and outrage incorrectly state Palaszczuk has declared she will not open borders, when in reality her words were a call for serious discussions:
“If New South Wales is the model of what lies in store for all of us, then we need to be having some serious discussions.”
The premier said she will ignore the national cabinet’s plan to open borders at 80 per cent vaccination rates, saying it will send QLD ‘backwards’, ruining Christmas plans for thousands of people separated from their families. On Thursday she said the national plan had ‘not been finalised’ and that she would keep borders shut to New South Wales despite soaring vaccinations.
Again, just questioning with the border should open will cost jobs.
These are just sample I found on a quick search. I feel the important point is that just questioning when borders should be opened is what has resulted in the attacks.
Fact Check: Zero-Covid-19 and Immunity Level Comparisons.
Zero-Covid-19 or “Covid-zero”.
Australia always had a policy of “suppression”, not elimination. So what is covid-zero or “Zero-Covid-19”?
New Zealand, and the individual states of Australia all followed a policy of “zero community spread”, which has been also been reffered to as “covid-zero” and other variations.
They all mean a policy of using whatever means are required to end chains of transmission of the virus. There are three main ingredients:
Border control with quarantine.
Track and trace.
Lockdowns in response to significant outbreaks.
Border control with quarantine. The first principle is to prevent people who arrive infected with the virus from infecting others during the time they are infectious. If no one introduces the virus, then there will be no “local transmission” of the virus. That is, the only cases will be those who arrive infected, having been infected before being “local”. Statistics of locations such as New Zealand still show cases being confirmed, even during long months of “covid-zero”, because people infected before arriving in New Zealand may only be confirmed as infected while in quarantine after then arrived. These people are not cases of “local infection”, but still count as cases within New Zealand.
Track and Trace. Border control with quarantine is not perfect, and cases still do get through quarantine, resulting in one or more “local infections”. When this does happen, the people who became infected, may have infected any number of people they have been in contact with. “Track and trace” is the process of trying to identify all people each infected person may have been in contact with, then test these people to identify any further infections. A complication is that most often the original case “escaping” quarantine will have been asymptomatic, and unknowingly infected several other people, and some of those may have been asymptomatic, resulting a many cases before an outbreak is even detected.
Lockdowns. When it becomes clear that there are, or will soon be, too many cases for track and trace, a lockdown is introduced to try to prevent or minimise spread while track and trace is used to isolate infected people. Prior to delta, even 20 cases was not necessarily sufficient for even a local area lockdown, but with delta, even the entire nation of New Zealand needed to lockdown with a single case was detected. This sounds, and is, extreme, but for almost 18 months this policy allowed New Zealanders to dine, socialise and attend sporting events unaffected by Covid-19.
Immunity Level Comparisons: Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA.
Immunity from Covid-19 generally results from either having previously been infected, or having been vaccinated. There is solid data on vaccinations, but on infections there is only confirmed cases, which depending on the testing regimes at the time and place will be somewhat lower than total infections.
Australia and New Zealand.
Both Australia and New Zealand have had negligible levels of infection so far, which on positive side means few deaths and hospitalisations so far, but the minus is that there is almost zero immunity from infection, which means there is no level of immunity beyond from vaccinations, so data from vaccination trackers is the level of immunity.
Levels of vaccination in Australia and New Zealand are quoted as a “percentage of the eligible population”, which is currently 16 and over in Australia, and 12 and over in New Zealand, which means numbers from the two countries cannot be directly compared. International data, as from vaccination trackers, is most often expressed as “percentage of the [full] population”, in order to allow direct comparison. Data reveals 18.7 percent of Australians were aged 0-14 in 2011, so assuming data is currently similar today and allowing for adding15 year-olds, gives around 20% of the population being under 16, so Australian vaccinations rates should be multiplied by 0.8 to arrive at rates for the entire population, while New Zealand number should be by 0.85. So opening levels for Australia at 70% and 80% represent 56% and 64% of the entire population.
As I found when exploring “Covid-19, Almost over?“, in early August 2021, researchers in the UK directly tested people was that 94% of adults in England had immunity to Covid-19. In the UK only those 16 and over are currently receiving vaccines, but the big difference in the UK is that a significant percentage of children would have already been exposed to the virus. Estimates so far suggest at least 90% of the total population would have some immunity.
I have not seen a study of immunity that allows projecting immunity levels nationally within the US. What we do know is that in the USA, 55% of the population are fully vaccinated as at September 21, 2021, which compares with 39.4% of Australians at this same date. Given significant number in the US who have been infected, the total immune level would I believe conservatively be at least 70%, which is almost double the current immunity in Australia.
Australian Situation: Lack of exposure in the past is a problem for the future.
The 70% and 80% immunity level for adults in Australia gives 56% and 64% population immunity, which even at higher of the two levels, is not only lower than the 90% estimated for the UK or even the 70% overall estimated for the US.
In fact, not matter what percentage of the Australian population 16 and over are vaccinated, it is not possible to reach immunity levels present in the UK. In reality, it will require a significant number of people being infected to ever match vaccination levels of the UK.
To achieve even current immunity levels present in the USA without a significant number of Australians gaining immunity through infection would require 87.5% of the Australian population being vaccinated.
Other factors may be different, but it will be difficult for Australia to even reach current USA immunity levels.
Australia and New Zealand have two real choices of next step:
Use reduced transmission through vaccinations to improve zero-covid-19 of ‘past paradise’.
Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.
Both options are highly problematic and there is no easy solution.
Option 1: Use Reduce Transmissions to Improve “zero-covid-19” strategy.
There is no getting around that even in a fully vaccinated society, “zero-covid-19” still requires some form of “border protection” to prevent infectious people arriving and spreading the virus. The current system has failed in New Zealand and the Australian States/Territories of NSW, Victoria and ACT, and lead to lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
If all had remained the same, continuous streamlining improvements to border quarantine could have made life with zero-covid-19 better, but delta made it harder, while vaccinations should make it better.
It could be argued that if the relevant population(s) had been sufficiently vaccinated that spread would have been sufficiently suppressed that lockdowns may not have been needed, but how easy it is to solve the problem with the new elements of the delta variant and a vaccinated population is just unproven.
Australians in Sydney and Melbourne see people in the UK and USA now living what appears to be as free as people in Perth and Brisbane, and think “they have all the freedoms without any risk of outbreaks!”.
Option 2: Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.
Many Australians are simply not ready for the levels of illness and death that accompanies those images where people in the USA and UK are living as just as free as people in Perth (Western Australia).
The illness and death are not seen, and to some, they don’t even matter. Protesters in Melbourne in particular, see their football grand final held in Perth Western Australia where there is no Covid-19 risk, while in the USA and UK the risk of Covid-19 does not seem to matter anyway. It seems there is no need to have borders and keep cases low, when life can look normal if Covid-19 is just simply almost ignored.
Again, it is a move into the unknown. Will the legacy of low cases and deaths in pandemic so far mean that lower levels of immunity will result in an even worse medical outcome in countries protected by vaccinations alone? There are those people who will care about the deaths. Or will it all just go away as Trump always predicted.
Confirmation Bias And The Flood of Information.
There is so much data on Covid-19, and much of it appears contradictory. In both providing and interpreting information, there is so much ambiguity. For example:
There is no universal agreement on what constitutes an ‘infection‘, or a ‘case‘.
Information of vaccination rates is presented as a percentage, but what it is a percentage of can vary make numbers look higher or lower.
Immunity from infections can be assumed to be at the rate of confirmed cases, or estimates of actual cases, which will normally be at least 2x greater, and up to 10x greater.
Data fluctuates so significantly making it “cherry pick” to support a variety of different conclusions.
For example, at the time of writing, both cases and deaths for both the USA and UK are higher than at the same date last year. This could be used to argue conditions have not improved, despite vaccinations. Alternatively, perhaps it is not time of year that is the deciding factor, but the phase of a ‘wave’ or ‘cycle’ and both countries it could be argued have far lower deaths and hospitalisations than at the same point in previous waves. There is data to support “things are worse than ever” and to support “things better than before”.
Given opinions are so polarised, there is a huge amount of confirmation bias happening when data is processed. Errors such as stating populations must have similar immunity levels on the basis of vaccinations alone and ignoring immunity from infections, is a typical example of distortions of reality that are rarely questioned.
A huge problem is that it is not just the public with ideas polarised through confirmation bias, it can also be the politicians making the decisions.
A Conspiracy, really? Who are the conspirators and why?
The essence of a conspiracy: A secret and hiding truth.
Just what is a conspiracy? There are many dictionary definitions, but there two common elements:
There is a plot or plan with some motive for those involved in the conspiracy.
The plot relies on keeping something secret that, if revealed, could the prevent the plan succeeding.
As you may have noticed, conspiracy theories have become rather common, and often with low credibility. Often it seems the “truth” claimed to be being hidden is not very credible, as with “flat earth” conspiracies, and other times it seems unlikely that the required number of people would all maintain secrecy if the secret was real, as with “twin towers” conspiracies that assume many many people participated in the consipriacy.
This conspiracy is all based on it remaining “secret” that opening border at the governments planned stage will likely result in deaths of perhaps 80 deaths per day, unless lockdowns continue following border openings.
At the core, this is a plot to ignore the science.
Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 are everywhere, but they are mostly where people who ignore science, or who believe the science is wrong, conspiring to protest and complain. Normally, the people in power are the ones following the science, although there have been some clear exceptions.
In the case of Australia, it is all about politicians with a history of ignoring science on other issues, doing it again. The Australian federal government has the history of choosing belief over science, and they have the same pattern with Covid-19.
Nationally, Australia’s policy with Covid-19 has always been “suppression”, based on the belief that the higher the level of cases, the easier it is to prevent more cases. While this may be true once a virus starts to run out of new people to infect, at more tolerable levels of virus in the community, growth is exponential. The very nature of exponential growth is, the bigger the number, the bigger the amount of growth. This means, in direct contradiction to opinions expressed by prime minister of Australia Scott Morrison, the more cases, the faster the growth and the harder the virus is to contain.
But it is the goal of the core members of the conspiracy, the party lead by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to censure debate and “railroad” Australians into a path return to “zero-covid-19” is “too difficult”, leaving “living with covid-19” as the only option available.
As with climate change where it not clear whether this political part believes climate change is no threat, if simply believes it is beneficial politically to act as their is no threat, it is difficult to know if the party members believes deaths in Australia will never reach per capita levels of comparable countries.
The Alternative Narrative: Borders must be open, consequences are just reality.
This new plan is simply a return to original narrative, this time eliminating the arguments of opponents that health outcomes would also be costly by keeping the health costs secret.
Faith and Confirmation Bias, How Followers Join The Conspiracy.
The conspiracy of “opening anyway” relies on the “secret” that herd immunity no longer will not be in place when the border are opened. That all data suggests opening will mean cases rising to levels common elsewhere but previously seen in Australia under wraps until opening has gone too far to be stopped.
The national government alone cannot stop others realising. It takes medical advisors, and state leaders and news media to also continue to promote “just get vaccinated and all will be OK”. It certainly does not need those pesky states questioning whether they should open up and allow infections to rise.
In reality this makes a fragile conspiracy as there are both those for and against:
The Rupert Murdoch controlled press and “shock jocks”.
During covid-19 have supported “the virus is not even a real problem” side of any argument.
Some Medical professionals fearing vaccine hesitancy.
If opening is seen as a reward for vaccination, perhaps promising open borders is ok, and surely the government will not really open if it is not safe?
State Leaders In States where are current outbreaks that are not under control.
Opening borders may not make it worse if covid-19 has already spread.
The Breakaways: Who will “spill the beans”?
Data is becoming clearer and clearer on spread even when vaccinated.
State leaders from states without covid-19 cases when targets are reached.
Palaszczuk from the state of Queensland
Most likely McGowan from Western Australia, and perhaps others in Zero-Covid-19 states.
The New Zealand government?
There are signs of supporters joining the breakaways as targets for opening come closer and potential problems begin to look like realities. The NSW state leader has already started qualifying messages on opening. I expect “leaks” of the truth to start to emerge from others beyond Palaszczuk, and will update this section as any emerge.
International Consequences and A Breakup of Australia?
There is more to explain, but for a few months in 2020, all Australia had lockdowns and the national government supported the lockdowns by funding a scheme to protect jobs while employees were forced to remain at home.
Contrast responses to the delta outbreak in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand:
The responses in NSW and Victoria were ineffective as workers needed to continue to work as the national government would no longer offer “job keeper” since the national government never supported Zero-Covid-19.
The response in New Zealand was effective as the national government still supports Zero-Covid-19.
Now consider what will happen in future with Western Australia:
The Western Australian Government will be very reluctant to open borders unless it is genuinely safe.
The National Government will not support Western Australia with any future lockdowns, or other Covid-19 support unless borders are open.
This could lead to a battle between a very popular state government in Western Australia, believing it should have the right to funding its own policies as it is a significant part of the Australian economy.
Western Australia could “go it alone” and keep their borders closed in defiance of the national government.
Western Australia “going it alone” would be a significant threat to national stability if deaths rise to expected levels in the eastern states.
The reality is that no country has managed the ultimate goal of herd immunity. It initially looked possible in Israel, before delta took hold. It even looked possible in the USA before delta arrived.
“zero-covid-19” while it requires quarantine
“living with covid-19” while it will result in even close to “30 deaths per 10 million people per day”
Is an outcome any country wants to accept going forward. A problem with covid-19 is that we cannot conduct live experiments with populations, and the world needs to be able to use results from countries who are able to do things differently to learn the best path. Australia and New Zealand, perhaps due in part to their isolation have provided data on alternative paths that is of value to the world. If either or both simply give up and join the rest of the world would be sad. To do so even if it will result in unnecessary deaths would be tragic.
It is not yet clear which is strategy is correct for Australia or New Zealand at this time, but as it is important for the world that somewhere tries “zero-covid-19” if it is at all viable at this time, it is certainly important that neither country is railroaded into just opening borders regardless of the alternatives because of an ideological position the prevents even open debate..
This is a follow up to “mid 2021, can we live with Covid-19”, as significant further information has become available. Currently updated as at August 22nd.
Will Vaccines end the Covid-19 problem, or is it an ongoing threat?
Risks vs Optimism: A range of futures is possible.
Looking on the bright side.
The Worst That Could Happen?
The Warning Signs.
There is no herd immunity, spread continues.
Vaccinated people do continue to become infected.
Infected People When Vaccinated Still Have Negative Health Outcomes.
While there is spread, there are variants.
Yes, ‘the worst’ may be almost here.
Will Coivd-19 just go away?
It Only Effects the Elderly.
Vaccines are a Silver Bullet.
We Just Have To Get Through Now.
The Challenge of Battle.
Lockdowns and Delta.
Will Vaccines provide an end the Covid-19 problem, or is there an ongoing threat?
In summary, there is conflicting evidence.
The promise has always been that vaccines could return the world to the glory days of before Covid-19. First we had to wait while we get and approve the vaccines, then we had to wait for people to be vaccinated. Along the way, variants of Covid-19 changed the rules. There are two possible post-Covid-19 futures, enabled by vaccines:
Society could leverage a reduced spread rate of Covid-19 as a result of vaccinations, and eradicate the virus.
Improved health outcomes for vaccinated people could make Covid-19 a disease we can live with.
From experience with vaccinations so far we believe the following is established:
Vaccinations do not eliminate spread.
Spread is reduced to some degree as a result of vaccinations.
Cases of Serious illness and deaths are dramatically reduced as a result of vaccinations.
This is mixture of good and bad, as significantly spread is reduced is uncertain, and weather the reducing serious illness and death is sufficient for living with the virus to be acceptable is also still in doubt.
There is an economic cost of eradication, but there is also an economic cost of living with Covid-19. Is it better to spend the effort now to eradicate, or to continue to pay over the longer term?
From a cynical perspective, it may depend on how economic cost is measured. Living with the virus actually creates economic activity as health care and even funerals are economic activity.
Risks vs Optimism: A range of futures is possible.
Looking on the bright side.
Positive: The UK has an acceptable outcome at the current case level?
The situation in the UK has transformed from nightmare, to a vision of utopia where a sufficiently vaccinated population has been able to cast off the shackles of Covid-19, open up, and see cases fall in the aftermath. Deaths are still relatively low, and the good news includes case numbers being lower now than when the UK fist opened up on July 19th. and even cases are lower than the peaks prior to opening up. But is the utopia only temporary?
Current data is that 94% of people in England currently have immunity to Covid-19. While even 94% does prevent spread, cases have remained below the level present on July 19. Deaths are currently on a seven day average of 100 deaths per day, and with a life expectancy of 81.77 years, and a population in 68 million, the result would be 1 in 22 chance of dying from Covid-19. In reality, chances are higher, because daily deaths are mostly from older people who originate from a smaller population, but this is still around a 1 in 20 chance that person’s death will be from Covid-19 as opposed to other causes. The current death rate is approximately 3x the influenza death rate from 2019.
Downside of the UK Situation?
The death rate of 100 per week would be 36,500 per year which is 18 times higher than the 2,000 people who die on the roads annually, and a lot of effort is exerted minimise that much smaller number, so it is not insignificant.
A concern is that the trend is that although case numbers fell immediately after July 19, they are now on the rise again.
Deaths are also on the rise.
Given that cases in the US fell in January 2021 prior to vaccinations reaching a level sufficient to explain a significant fall in cases, there is evidence that virus comes in waves that at time subside independently of vaccinations. The fall in cases in the UK, directly at the time restrictions were lifted, is hard to attribute to any peak in vaccinations or trigger. Given cases are again rising, it is too early to be certain where the long term average case numbers and resultant casualties will stabilise.
What is missing from the available data is the hospitalisation rate, which is more critical in determining the risk that some measures will need to be reintroduced, and the rate of ‘long-Covid’ which may take longer to asses.
The overall risk is that current open status with an ‘acceptable’ rate of hospitalisations will either turn out to no be tolerable due to long covid, or only an unsustainable temporary situation.
The risks individual risks I can see are:
Cases and deaths could still continue to rise, and there is no reliable data on a stable level of case numbers.
If cases rise, the hospital system could come under stress.
‘Long-Covid’ may pose a long term health problem.
New variants could emerge given case numbers are close to those at the peak of the pandemic.
Negative: The US situation is disconcerting.
The perception of vaccines is central to the situation in the USA.
The data is:
Vaccines have been highly effective in reducing death and serious illness, despite conflicting data on effectiveness against spread of the virus.
Cases in the USA fell in 2021, prior to a sufficient level of vaccination to cause the fall.
This data is interpreted with a high degree of confirmation bias by polarised groups with strongly held beliefs. Interpretations include:
Vaccines solve everything:
People were vaccinated, cases fell, but now delta has arrived we need more vaccinations.
It is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
Vaccines are part of a conspiracy to erode freedoms:
Cases fell in January even in areas where vaccinations are low, so claims on vaccine effectiveness are false.
A problem is a polarised society, is that the with differing belief about vaccines and Vaccines have been very effective, but data on results from vaccinations in the US have seen data interpreted according to belief with a strong degree of confirmation bias.
The US dan the need for vaccines in the US
The worst that could happen?
Given the mixed outcomes we are seeing in different countries, and interpreting that data in the most cautious way, what appears to be the worst outcome we are facing right now? This is not the most likely outcome, but more the outcome we need to consider insuring against, just as we insure against a car accident even when we do not expect to be involved in a car accident.
Imagine a world where everyone, including babies in the womb, must be perpetually vaccinated levels against Covid-19.
Then, imagine that even when vaccinated, most people will spend months in hospital, even during their childhood years, and 1 in 10 or more will die before they are 30.
Although not technically the worst possible scenario, to me this sounds like a future we should insure against. Just as we insure our house against fire even though for most houses the risk is low, because it would be so terrible if the fire did eventuate.
If that outcome is sufficiently dire, the next question becomes, “is there a real threat this could eventuate?”.
How close to this reality are we?
The Warning Signs: The Reasons to Consider Insurance.
There is no long term herd immunity, spread continues despite vaccinations.
Already with the delta variant, or what I call Covid-19.4, it seems to be now agreed that, as I have suspected for some time, Covid-19 continues to spread within a vaccinated population. This is despite ‘waves’ , as in India in May 2021, or the USA in January 2021, seeing declines in cases even without substantial vaccination.
Vaccinated people do continue to become infected.
The term ‘infected’ is open to interpretation, but clearly vaccinated people can become infected.
This was backed by UNSW Kirby Institute virologist Greg Dore, who pointed to the example of Iceland to show herd immunity was “not attainable with the Delta variant”.
Iceland, which has 93 per cent of the population 16 years of age or older vaccinated, reported 2,783 cases over the past 30 days — its largest wave since the pandemic began.
Yet Iceland has had no deaths for the past 30 days attributed to COVID.
Note that Iceland is a small country with a population of only 370,000 people, so this level of cases means almost 1 in 100 people in the country became infected within the last 30 days.
If vaccinated people who should be ‘immune’ can become infected, then clearly a person can be infected repeatedly. If there is substantial virus circulating in the community, as far as we know a person may become infected multiple times every year for the rest of their life, even if fully vaccinated.
Infected People When Vaccinated Still Have Negative Health Outcomes.
The above statistics from Iceland note that there have been no Covid-19 deaths within the past 30 days. However, data from Australia does show that vaccinated people have been hospitalised, been on intensive care, and even died during the current outbreak. Yes, of those who have died despite vaccination, they have been either elderly or had other health complications. This would suggest perhaps people who never become elderly, or never experience other health issues, will have nothing to fear once vaccinated, but even this assumption is not yet fully tested as with Covid-19 once the level of the virus in the environment rises, the severity of disease also rises. It may be still too early to have data on the impact of an outbreak amongst vaccinated people.
So far, the impact on the unvaccinated is so much worse, that the focus is on getting people vaccinated, and only then will we learn for sure the extent of the remaining problems. But what is clear, is that problems do remain even once vaccinated.
While there is spread, there are variants.
But we have progressed from the original Covid-19 to the delta variant within 18 months and the amount of circulating virus is higher than ever. What will we having in another 18 months, or an another 3 or 6 years?
Yes, ‘the worst’ may be almost here.
So with the delta virus, we already have the potential for people to become infected multiple times year after year even if vaccinated, and there are already hospitalisations as a result even when vaccinated, even if deaths are rare unless the patient also has other health problems. Possible the risk of death is low if you never contract Covid-19 and have an other health issue at the same time?
Will Coivd-19 just go away?
Trump was famous for declaring the virus would magically just disappear, and although it did not disappear on a schedule he would have wanted, it is still possible the virus could one day seem to do just that. What happened to the virus that caused 1918 pandemic?
“The end of the pandemic occurred because the virus circulated around the globe, infecting enough people that the world population no longer had enough susceptible people in order for the strain to become a pandemic once again,” says medical historian J. Alexander Navarro, Markel’s colleague and the Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Medicine. “When you get enough people who get immunity, the infection will slowly die out because it’s harder for the virus to find new susceptible hosts.”
Eventually, with “fewer susceptible people out and about and mingling,” Navarro says, there was nowhere for the virus to go —the “herd immunity” [also see here] being talked about today. By the end of the pandemic, a whopping third of the world’s population had caught the virus. (At the moment, about half a percent of the global population is known to have been infected with the novel coronavirus.)
Both times there was a fall in case numbers that is not easy to correctly explain. For example, many people give credit to vaccines for the drop in cases in the USA, but examining the data clearly show the cases began falling prior to vaccinations reaching significant levels. Even though long term herd immunity through vaccination appears to be shown to be impossible, some level of short term immunity that prevents spread does seem to be possible. Either that, or the end of the coldest weather can cause a drop in case numbers.
While there are ways case numbers, even with delta, do fall, Covid-19 is not just going away by itself through herd immunity.
It Only Effects the Elderly.
It becomes convenient to adopt a belief that Covid-19 is a disease of ‘others’, and in this case, the elderly, negating the need for the young and healthy to isolate and making insistence they do isolate unnecessary and cruel.
Vaccines are a Silver Bullet.
Vaccines provide immunity that it was originally thought would result in herd immunity once vaccination targets were reached. There are still many messages, such as ‘vaccine passports’ suggesting that Covid-19 is over for those who are vaccinated. Now in the US, there are again recommendations of masks even for those who are vaccinated, but pandemic is constantly presented as a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’. In relative terms this may be true, but we may still find that even vaccinated cannot assume all is over.
We Just Have To Get Through Now.
Covid-19 has always been presented as something we must get through in order to be able to return to normal. That we can exists in any way near the previous normal without eradicating Covid-19 is still unclear, and rather than eradicate Covid-19, what I am hearing so far is plans for places where Covid-19 is currently eradicated to open up and allow the virus in.
The Challenge of Battle.
Lockdowns and Delta.
Australia is proving lockdowns with the delta strain are already difficult. How hard will it be it the virus continues to evolve?
Much of society is completely frustrated with Covid-19 to the point that they demand and end to lockdowns, regardless of the consequences. Partly because lockdowns have prevented them seeing the consequences of no lockdowns. Generally, once the medical system breaks down, people then accept lockdowns, but that does nothing for eradication. Eradication requires lockdowns to continue even when cases are low until they are eliminated, and getting societies to accept that is extremely problematic.
The real conclusion is that we do not yet know if we can live with Covid-19, yet no one seems to have plans to eradicate the virus in the longer term.
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:
Vaccinations are all some conspiracy.
I am young and healthy so I do not need the vaccine.
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).
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.
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:
Passports provide an incentive for people to be vaccinated.
As vaccinated people have reduced spread rates, events open only the vaccinated have reduced risk.
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.
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.
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.
Live with It and Restrictions: Less Consequences, but less Freedom. (to be added)
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.
Sorry, but like the pandemic, it is not over. But I will be trying to add a conclusion to this page soon,
So far around 75% of countries who have lived with Covid19, most often not by choice, and around 25% of countries have lived in the shadow of Covid-19, but through elimination, mostly without Covid-19.
Vaccinations may allow living with Covid-19 to be more palatable, but they also provide an opportunity for more countries to eliminate Covid-19.
This raises a huge question of global significance: does humanity prefer to live with Covid-19, or use immunity through vaccinations as an opportunity to eliminate the virus.
Opening up when there will still be spread: Giving up on reaching herd immunity.
More and more the phase “we have to learn to live with Covid-19” seems to appear. The suggestion is, even if cases are rising, remove Covid-19 restrictions, and allow the virus to spread as a result. Since ‘herd immunity‘ is when there are sufficient people immune that a virus will not spread, this means removing restrictions without achieving herd immunity. This means giving up, or simply not waiting to achieve herd immunity through vaccinations.
Vaccines have promised the possibility of herd immunity through vaccinations, but given herd immunity is when cases do not rise even when restrictions are removed, this is a call to not for herd immunity. Why? There are 3 possible reasons:
Everyone wanting a vaccine has been vaccinated, so it is considered fair to expose the unvaccinated.
It has been decided herd immunity is impossible, but as with the common cold, the disease is not sufficiently severe to justify eradication.
Even if herd immunity is possible, it has been determined that with the most at risk now vaccinated, it is an acceptable risk and lower cost to achieve herd immunity through exposing the rest of the population to the disease.
The UK seems to be choosing option 3, while Israel, even with a high level of vaccinations is reimposing restrictions as with their high level of vaccinations, cases are again rising.
Which path should a country choose? Or is Option 4: “Only remove all restrictions when the virus will no longer spread”, still an option? With herd immunity, even if a person from outside starts a cluster, that cluster would die out by itself because the spread factor has dropped below one. It seems no country is there yet.
Asymptomatic Spread: Will the waves just keep coming?
Early in the pandemic I wrote about the much misunderstood and misrepresented ‘best practice for pandemics’ referred to as ‘flattening the curve‘. In theory there would be only two waves: One with restrictions in place, and another after restrictions are relaxed.
Yet with Covid-19 many countries have seen more waves. Is this a sign that herd immunity is impossible with Covid-19, or just that we have not reached required vaccination levels?
Outbreaks with Covid-19 have not followed the script because:
lockdowns can be more effective than the theory expected, stopping instead of lowering spread
there is insufficient ‘herd immunity’ levels when re-opening, forcing the introduction of new measures to reduce spread
It is possible that with Covid-19, as being vaccinated reduces, rather than eliminates, the risk of spread, that herd immunity becomes impossible. The graph of worldwide cases has at least three peaks, but these were largely driven by peaks in the the US (Jan 2021), India (April 2021) and a current rise that must turn into a peak driven by many countries together, rather than the whole world having three peaks together.
More disturbingly the US, Israel, and Japan are all heading for their 5th peak, the UK its 4th. Many other countries have also had a sequence of peaks that would be expected from an outbreak managed using a ‘stop-go’ containment plan of continually deliberately letting cases rise in order to achieve herd immunity by infection. Instead of this being by design, all these countries again rising cases again now as a result of more infectious strains of the virus. Herd immunity is proving elusive, likely because with Covid-19, vaccination is may not create sufficient immunity for herd immunity.
The Case for elimination, and against living with Covid-19:
Blaming China won’t prevent outbreaks like Covid-19, and we can expect more pandemics.
It is popular to blame China for Covid-19. Trump even pointedly called it the ‘China virus’. However, perhaps blaming China is a way to avoid admitting that 21st century society is a hot bed for pandemics.
Really it, the evidence shows pandemics are becoming more frequent, and the most likely source of Covid-19, our 21st century society of almost 8 billion extremely mobile humans crowded onto one finite planet, it not going away and statistically will soon add another pandemic. It we don’t get ride of this one, we could soon have two to deal with at once. Should we just live with an ever increasing number of pandemic level viruses circulating?
UNESCO welcomes the release of the latest expert report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which establishes the links between biodiversity loss and the increase in pandemic risk factors. This scientific report highlights that the current COVID-19 crisis, which it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, and the previous global health pandemics all have one thing in common: their emergence is entirely driven by human activities.
Analysis of the origin of the virus does suggest China was the origin, but that given that no one blamed the 1918 flu on the USA, nor did they blame 2009 ‘swine flu’ pandemic on the USA, even though both appear to have began in the USA, blaming China just because that is where the first case occurred would seem a double standard.
Plus, the worst outbreak in Australia during 2020 clearly was imported from the US, and variants though to have originated in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and particularly India have taken over now as the source of concern. So why should we blame China?
We don’t blame the county where a virus starts because it could have happened anywhere.
Or could it have happened anywhere? Isn’t there a suggesting China is the ‘bad guy’ with this outbreak?
China gets blamed because it is good for social media, and good for politics, even in China!
Social media is gets engagement and thus revenue through outrage, and blaming China creates outrage against China, and outrage against those who blame China. Politically, leaders get better approval when there is an ‘enemy’, and blaming China allows American leaders to appear strong against China, and having the world blame China allows Chinese leaders to position China as being oppressed by the west and generate increased nationalism. Perhaps politically it is Chinese leaders who benefit most from China being blamed.
But none of this changes the reality, that there is a reason people where waring of just such a pandemic, and they were even movies about the scenario just before it happened: human society has created the breeding ground for pandemics.
And if we ‘live’ with this pandemic causing virus, we cannot be at all sure it will remain the only one we are living with at once.
Living with Covid-19 is not like living with another influenza: Its far, far worse.
Earlier this month, the Australian government announced a four-phase plan to return us to something resembling normality. Under this plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, we will eventually treat COVID-19 “like the flu”.
The hope is vaccines will allow us to live with some transmission without many people getting seriously ill or dying.
But death and hospitalisation aren’t the only outcomes of COVID-19 we need to prevent. New research shows even young people can be left with chronic health problems after infection.
COVID-19 will always be a very different disease to the flu. We should aim to stamp it out like measles, not let it spread.
While there are politicians who suggest that, once the population is sufficiently vaccinated, Covid-19 could become “like the flu”, this is unrealistic claim is typically by those politicians have found the pandemic has improved their chances or re-election, and not something an actual expert would say.
The UK has not reached target levels of vaccination, but when considering most of the unvaccinated in the UK are in age groups of greatest socialisation and least likely to have shown symptoms if infected, the percentage of the population who are likely to have immunity is likely to be close to the maximum percentage that would be achieved by population alone. Despite this, many warn of the consequences of deciding to ‘live with’ Covid-19.
Without elimination, we are ramping up the virus incubator: a completely batty idea.
The most common source of pandemics are viruses that evolve in bats. So many viruses evolve in bats because bats have live with a lot of viruses. Humans living with Covid-19, means another population living with a dangerous virus, and therefore another factory to produce new viruses. The total number of bats in the world is unknown, but even if it does exceed the number of humans, human contact between humans is far higher than human contact with bats. Plus, a vaccinated population living with a virus is like a challenge to evolution “solve the problem of how to thrive in vaccinated hosts”.
Even living with Covid-19 in just 2021 poses a threat of creating ‘variant factories‘.
The chance of future pandemics will be far higher if we are living with dangerous viruses in the not just the bat population, but also the human population.
Living with Covid-19 the virus may mean a partially brain damaged population.
Being vaccinated means statistically means exposure to the virus in the vast majority of cases will not result in symptoms, however this does not mean zero copies of the virus, and does not ensure a person will not test positive or suffer ‘long covid’.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the UK are soaring, with the latest daily figure for 9 July showing at 35,707 cases. Leading scientists and clinicians are saying the government’s plan to ease lockdown on 19 July is both “dangerous” and “unethical”. But Johnson is sticking to his plan, which is herd immunity in all but name. Meanwhile, recent studies reveal that damage to brain tissue could be yet another consequence of long Covid.
I do not believe the above article is suggesting Boris Johnson has brain damage as a result of his well know case of Covid-19, but there is the suggestion that opening up the UK is somewhat irrational. Then again, while only a small percentage of the electorate would have brain damage after 1 year of Covid-19, it is unknown how high that percentage would be after 10 or 20 years of a population living with Coivd-19. Apart from jokes about how a brain damaged population may help some political candidates, there is a serious side to the dangers of a long term experiment exposing the population to a dangerous virus, year after year, even if respiratory symptoms are known to be in almost all cases at the worst very mild in vaccinated people, when other affects are not yet known.
Children, currently not even vaccinated, could be subjected year after year for their entire lifetime.
Covid-19 is far worse. Firstly, except when everyone is social distancing and having some degree of lockdown, the rate of mortality and hospitalisation is higher than with influenza. Data for delta suggests at least 10x higher, which by itself would raise the cost just in the US to $870 billion, and that is before considering the cost of ‘long covid’, of vaccinating the entire population repeatedly, and trying to prevent outbreaks from vaccine resistant strains. Even in the best possible scenario, living with Covid-19 would be extremely costly, and the costs would continue year after year, while if Covid-19 is eliminated, annual costs would also be eliminated.
The ‘Flu’ is not that great to live with either, why would be want another worse version?
The Influenza virus mutates so frequently that it is more difficult to vaccinate against than Covid-19. With vaccines, we can lower the illness and mortality levels from Covid-19 to be comparable to those with influenza. But this is not like for like, this is that after vaccinating the entire population, we still have what is quite a big problem. Influenza and not something we want to live with either, and researchers are working to try find way to eradicate influenza, not add another problem just as bad.
It would be far better to ask “can we also eradicate influenza”, than “it is ok to have another one”.
The case for living with Covid-19, and against elimination.
Elimination is too hard.
Approximately 25% of the countries in the world have managed to eliminate the spread of Covid-19. Given that means it has been circulating in 75% of countries, which makes it impossible to ensure not a single infected virus arrives with international travellers to those 25% of countries without local spread. As Covid-19 enters a countries without local spread over and over again, Covid-19 outbreaks keep happening, and to the virus must be eliminated over and over again to return to be a country with elimination.
This proves many locations have over and over again proven it is possible to eliminate Covid-19. The problem in keeping Covid-19 eliminated, is that the majority of other countries are not yet even close or trying to eliminate Covid-19, so international travellers continue to re-introduce the virus.
Economic Cost of Elimination.
So elimination, at least so far, has been possible.
The next main argument against elimination, and for living with Covid-19, is that elimination is too costly. Elimination requires the use of lockdowns, and these reduce economic activity. While living with the disease comes at cost to society and has an economic cost, a disease can even generate economic activity, while lockdowns used for elimination also eliminate economic activity and increase the enemy of economic activity: unpaid work.
Similarly, during lockdown during a pandemic, even if the same number of meals are eaten during the lockdown, if none of the meals are purchased at a restaurant, the result is a disaster for the economy.
On the other hand, if a pandemic makes retired people ill, there is increased economic activity through the medical services. If some die, then there is economic activity for the funeral system, although this is better there are no limits on people attending.
The Richest and Most Powerful are better off with a pandemic.
Note also that while a long pandemic may cause economic hardship for many, the wealthiest 5% of society tend to get wealthy during a pandemic. There are some very wealthy people with big marketing budgets who will lose wealth if Covid-19 is eliminated.
The combined worth of Australian billionaires was assessed to be 52.4% higher this week than at the same time last December.
By comparison, billionaires in the US and UK recorded an increase of about 25% over the same period, the Bloomberg index shows.
The Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh said the figures “remind us of the importance of tackling inequality, which is significantly higher in Australia than it was a generation ago”.
“Those increases are remarkable,” the shadow assistant minister for Treasury and charities told Guardian Australia.
“Any of your readers would be punching the air if they had enjoyed a 20% increase in their wealth, and they would be double fist-pumping the air if they had a 50% increase, and yet that’s the story for the typical Australian billionaire.”
Australia mid 2021: A Case study and experiment in elimination.
I will update this as the story unfold, but as previous described in July 2021: Vaccines or not, its not over yet, Australia has recently had an a new outbreak of the delta variant of Covid-19. Eliminating the delta virus, in a population with only less than 9% level of vaccination, and in a country where a greater percentage of the population living in cities than in the USA or UK, will be a challenge that has never before been tackled. However if this can be managed, than most other countries should be able to also managed elimination, at least once vaccination rates are higher.
With individual case history traced in Australia due to the current low infection numbers, data will be revealed about the spread of the delta variant that has not been possible to collect from previous outbreaks.
This outbreak started in a country previously free of local transmission of the virus, from a single case of infection of a driver transporting international flight crews to their hotels in Sydney. One of more flight crew passengers must have passed the infection of the delta strain through to the driver.
Up to July 16th.
In the fully open city of Sydney, the driver visiting shopping centres and other venues before having symptoms and getting tested. This triggered an outbreak predominantly in the eastern suburbs of Sydney which after two weeks of ‘whack a mole’ resulted in a lockdown for Sydney. ‘Whack a mole’ because by the time the outbreak in the Eastern Suburbs appeared was under control, there was a new outbreak in the South Western suburbs of Sydney. Following the first case being detected on June 17th, there was a delay of 9 days until the first lockdown began, possibly to first allow the school term to complete. Initially the lockdown was to last 2 weeks and end before school returned, but this was extended due to that ‘whack a mole’ effect seeing cases rise in the second location even during the light lockdown.
Then 3 infected removalists travelled to Melbourne and were part of spreading the virus to Australia’s second largest city, before travelling to a third state capital, Adelaide. Before the spread to Melbourne was detected, the worst had already happened, and infected person had infected others at a crowded football match.
Now on July 16th, over 8 million Australians, in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne are in lockdown.
2021: July 24th.
On July 24th, with the highest number of Covid-19 cases so far, a protest down Broadway to the centre of city town hall took place. With an outspoken far right contingent in Sydney, the prospect of civil disobedience such as this managing to prevent a lockdown achieving results is very real. Protesters protesting a lockdown, yet at the same time making lockdown inevitable is potential perfect storm. Early stage, but this could become very serious.
Some protesters brought their children, while few people were wearing face masks at the demonstration, which started at Victoria Park in Camperdown.
Protesters carried signs saying “Wake up Australia” and waved Australian flags.
NSW Police received an application for the protest, which was rejected.
Much depends on whether the march will turn out to be a super-spreader event, and that could turn out to depend on whether people who knew they were infected would attend with nefarious intent.
On July 17th, the same day the NSW government strengthened lockdown measures the Populations Intervention Unit at the University of Melbourne released modelling. On interactive graph, it shows cases to peak at 198 on July 27th under the worst case scenario. Of course, modelling did not anticipate protest marches impacting the outcome, but even prior to any such effect latest trends risk exceeding the worst case scenario, with 163 cases from July 23 (below the projected worst case outcome), representing an above worst case rise in infection numbers from the previous day, but could be an aberation.
New South Wales registered a record 163 new locally acquired today, including one death.
At least 45 of the cases were infectious while in the community.
The man who died was in his 80s and lived in Sydney’s south-west.
In a sometimes emotional press conference, Health Minister Brad Hazzard pleaded with other states to donate doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
States including Victoria and South Australia rejected the same plea yesterday.
“Last time I looked, we were a Commonwealth — we worked together, and it disturbs me that all we’ve ever done to work together has just seemingly been cast aside,” he said.
Sydney’s stay at home orders are being extended, with the Cumberland and Blacktown LGAs now included. That means only authorised workers can leave those areas. Mr Hazzard said the worst-hit areas were mostly in Sydney’s west and south-west.
“[It’s] transmission particularly as a result of family members getting together when they just should not be getting together. We also are seeing transmission in shops and in other workplaces, ” he said.
Earlier, more venues were added to the list of COVID-19 exposure sites across New South Wales. You can see the full list here.
Twelve new locally acquired cases were recorded today, 10 of them were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.
Five cases are linked to the AAMI Park outbreak, three to Ms Frankie’s restaurant in Cremorne and two to an apartment complex in Richmond.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the decrease in daily cases was a positive sign the lockdown was working and could be lifted next week, if the trend continued.
Victoria has also introduced a travel permit system designating areas across Australia and New Zealand as green, orange, red or extreme risk zones.
The change came into effect at midnight, with New South Wales declared an extreme risk zone.
It means those entering Victoria under that classification without an exemption will be put on a return flight or placed into 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine.
Anyone who attempts to enter Victoria illegally faces fines of more than $5,000.
Another 400 exposure sites, mostly in Melbourne’s city centre and inner-east, were also added to the exposure site list overnight.
South Australia has recorded one new case of COVID-19 today, and it’s linked to other cases at a winery north-east of Adelaide.
The person was in quarantine, and it brings the state’s total in the current outbreak to 16.
Premier Steven Marshall said the state was on track to come out of lockdown next week.
Mr Marshall said repatriation flights scheduled to arrive in Adelaide on Monday and Tuesday would be cancelled.
Queensland has recorded zero new locally acquired COVID-19 cases today, although contract tracing will continue amid an alert involving a flight attendant.
The Brisbane woman in her thirties tested positive on Thursday and was potentially infectious while working on QantasLink flights to-and-from Longreach, Gladstone and Hervey Bay on the 11th and 12th of July.
The woman has the Delta strain which is circulating in Sydney.
Western Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 cases today.
WA Health are still monitoring 9 active cases: eight cases remain aboard the BBC California currently berthed at Fremantle Port and one case is in hotel quarantine.
ACT, Northern Territory & Tasmania.
There have been no new cases of COVID-19 reported in the ACT, Northern Territory or Tasmania today.
UK – Mid 2021, A Case Study and Experiment on Living with Covid-19.
Fully Vaccinated? Still Potentially Infectious.
The start was frightening. As if proof that being fully vaccinated does not prevent disease, it was revealed on July 172021, that the UK minister for health minster had tested positive and went into quarantine. To add to the confusion, the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson who has previously been infected and fully vaccinated but is a close contact of the health minister, initially stated he would not enter quarantine only to ‘backflip’ and later announce he would enter quarantine.
Unlike Belgium, where just a week after opening cases surged and the country went almost immediately back into lockdown, in the UK cases since the 19th of July, the end lockdown date, have fallen. On the other side, deaths have risen to around 100 per day.
more to be added as July data is complete.
‘Ending’ this pandemic by ‘living with’ Covid-19 does not feel like a true ‘end’, and despite the China origin theories, the risk of more pandemics to follow is very real, and leave humanity accruing a collection of diseases requiring periodic vaccination.
To me, it seems like yet another case where global governance is required for a true real world solution.
This is a snapshot of the pandemic as of March 2021, looking at what life is like in Sydney Australia, and looking out at the world.
The most recent case of a person infected in NSW , the state with Sydney as its capital, outside of quarantine was on March 17th and was a person working with arrivals in quarantine. In this case, the person infected was asymptomatic, and was the first case in 50 days. The general picture in NSW, and Australia in general, is that cases of Covid-19 are very rare right now. Is this the end of the pandemic, or the calm before the storm?
I have been following Covid-19 since January 2020 I felt the world too complacent, through to today March 17 2021, when I now fear there may be too much faith in vaccines. Israel has been at the forefront of vaccination, and should provide an early indicator of what to expect. So today I thought I would check on the latest from Israel. What I found sounded almost unbelievable good! Until I realised, yes, it should not be believed. The data is presented in a very misleading way.
It is already January 20 here, but in the US, it is still very early in the morning, and the inauguration of President Biden awaits. So does the release of Covid-19 statistics for the day, and although numbers may be delayed until tomorrow, the US will likely record a tragic daily record of over 5,000 deaths in a day for the first time. Worldwide, over 2 million deaths. Why? Partly due to mistakes, and yet another looks set to occur with vaccines.
2020 is regarded by many as ‘anus horribilis’. Enter 2021 and the hope for better, however dangerous assumptions, including that with a vaccines and a new year all will be fine, create a very real threat that 2021 may be no better than 2020.
We come into 2021 armed with vaccines, but with Covid-19 case levels higher than ever. Much has been learnt since I first wrote back in January 2020 how the then unnamed new coronavirus would very likely take the world on a wild ride.