Thursday, May 20, 2021

From The Very Outset LET HER RIP!!! Has Been The U.S. Covid Mitigation Strategy...,

nakedcapitalism | The question that I have no answer to is when exactly was it decided to not contain it. If you remember, some information came out about early and mid-February 2020 closed Senate meetings, after which senators were selling their shares in hotels and airlines, i.e. what was going to happen in late March was known at that time. But it was not in fact too late to contain it in early February, it could have been done with test-trace-isolate. So maybe it was perceived at the time that it could not be, assuming the decision was made as late as possible within that timeline. But the earlier that decision happened, the more nefarious motivations one would have to suspect were involved, because why would you not at least try to contain it when it was eminently doable? After all SARS-1 was contained even though it reached hundreds of cases in Canada and the US. And then what followed was the outright sabotage of testing and detection by the CDC,1 the CDC allowing strongly suspected to be infected people to just get off their flight and walk right back into the community, and a rather long list of other such absurd actions. Maybe one day internal information will leak and we will learn the truth, who knows…

Also, this all becomes even more gruesome when one realizes that the decision of the US to allow it to become endemic meant the same decision was imposed on most of the rest of the world, as the US controls it. As I said above, Eastern Europe (except for Belarus and Russia) took it very seriously early on and locked down before it had gotten out of hand, and was in fact very close to elimination. Montenegro, which eventually ended up being one of the worst affected countries, actually did eliminate it in May 2020.

But once it became clear the US will not eliminate and the EU will not eliminate, those countries had no choice, although they could have at least held out for vaccines instead of letting it rip. There was never going to be a world in which the EU and Latin America have indefinitely banned travel out of the US, not with US military bases stationed all over Europe. And there was never going to be a world in which Bulgaria and Romania ban travel from Germany.

The really sad part is that a country like Russia supposedly does have that independence, and could have gone for elimination and closed borders and a bubble with China. But modern Russia is not the USSR, it’s just as, if not more neoliberal than the US, so they let it rip too, for the same reasons as in the US…

And now some the countries that did the right thing — Taiwan, Vietnam, and Laos — are encircled and battling their worst outbreaks since the start, which is heartbreaking to watch. 

The combination of infection level and vaccine effectiveness lead toward viral evolutionary selection:

 Unfortunately, with many respected scientists jumping on board of the optimism hype train (it was quite noticeable how the mood shifted on purely scientific matters that had absolutely nothing to do with politics a few months ago), the wrong message has already been once again sent to the public, and we can expect disaster in the future.

Non-sterilizing vaccines mean the virus will not only get the chance to evolve complete escape but will be channeled in that direction. But it also may be channeled in the direction of being much more virulent as a side effect of its fight with the vaccines (this can get quite detailed on a molecular level so I will not go into it right now).

The math does not look good — the unmitigated-spread R_0 in February 2020 was much closer to 6.0 than to the usually cited 2.0. But the current variants have undergone adaptation and are much more contagious. Let’s say we have R_0 = 6. And let’s say we reach 70% vaccination (it’s hard to see how we will get higher), and that transmission is cut by 80% (this, however, is simplistic — it is quite likely that transmission is cut by 80% in the first couple months after vaccination, but then the first thing that will wear off is protection from infection, with protection from severe disease going away last). That’s 56% effective vaccination. But the herd immunity threshold for R_0=6 is 85%, a lot higher, i.e. it will continue to spread. It might in fact continue to spread even with 100% vaccination with a full return to 2019 in terms of lack of social distancing.

So we should absolutely never have gone down the path of “solving” this crisis with vaccines and not doing anything to stop transmission. The vaccines should have been used as one of the tools to eliminate the virus, but in combination with NPIs.

If evolution featured in the thinking of our overlords, they would not have settled on this as the “solution” to the problem. But either it does not, or they just don’t care.

P.S. Some more sobering simple math. Let’s say the vaccine is 90% protective against severe disease over a period of two years. Then one can expect to have on average three serious COVID episodes by the time he is 60 even if he is always up-to-date with his biannual vaccinations (and there is no knowing how much more virulent to young people it will have become in the future with all the serial passaging). We now see what round #1 of mass reinfections looks like in India. So that is the “solution” being offered right now. However, it will probably not happen as one giant apocalyptic wave so it can be pushed to the background as a non-problem.