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Covid: vaccines don't work (the way we expected) and the way forward
Articles written before 2021


  • (august 2021) Covid: vaccines don't work (the way we expected) and the way forward
    Many people are disappointed that "vaccines don't work." That's not quite the case, but they "don't work" the way people expected them. Expectations are a big part of a success story: if the result does not meet the expectations, no matter what the result is, the perception will be of a failure. Currently in the USA, people who are not vaccinated are responsible for around 99.5% of covid deaths and 97% of hospitalizations; but that's because in the USA relatively few people are vaccinated. In Britain, which has a higher rate of vaccinations, the majority of covid deaths are among vaccinated people. Israel is another country where the majority of adults has been vaccinated, but in July 2021 it experienced a spike in both cases and deaths.
    Expectations were unrealistic. The expectation was created by the scientific world and by the authorities, and it was something along the lines of "If you're vaccinated, you won't get covid and won't spread it... when we have vaccinated enough people, covid will disappear".
    It turns out that vaccinated people are getting covid, are spreading it and a few are even dying of it. And many regions are registering record-high numbers of infections, which means that covid could soon be spreading again like one year ago, and in places like Japan and Australia (and possibly China itself) even faster than in 2020.
    The good news is that the relative mortality level is low, much lower than in 2020. Vaccines have dramatically reduced our overall risk of dying of covid. A little bit of math tells me that my chance of dying of covid after being vaccinated has been reduced by almost 90%. It was definitely worth the shot. Most likely, if i catch covid, it will be "mild", i.e. comparable with the seasonal flu.
    There is, however, precious little information about the long-term effects of "mild" covid. Millions of people around the world report having "long covid", i.e. long-term effects from covid, but the scientific world still doesn't have a definition for it, an explanation for it, and remedy hypotheses. As things stand, better not to catch covid, mild or otherwise.
    The bad news is that vaccines don't seem to be effective at stopping transmission, not as much as we hoped and expected. Note that no vaccine was tested in clinical trials against transmission, so we have no reliable scientific study on the effectiveness of vaccines to slow transmission. Scientists were simply "guessing" that vaccines would slow transmission precisely because they reduce the severity of the infection, but that's just a guess. Small studies (to be taken with a grain of salt) show that vaccinated people still transmit covid: this one from Provincetown (70% of new cases were of vaccinated people); this one from Israel (vaccine efficacy in slowing down transmission declines to 19% in six months); and, most damning, this one by the CDC (viral loads are almost identical in the vaccinated and the unvaccinated).
    Put it bluntly, vaccines don't prevent transmission, vaccines will not eliminate covid.
    The really bad news is that covid is likely to mutate again if it keeps spreading through millions of people, so a new variant may have been born by the time i finish this article. The existing vaccines may or may not protect us from future variants. If they don't, then we'll be back where we were in 2020, in the world of lockdowns and remote learning.
    One wonders if it's really necessary that so many people are returning to work in their offices and that so many students return to learning full-time in classrooms and that so many people attend religious functions (that have been known to be top super-spreaders): the one thing that no scientist disputes is that covid spreads much faster in closed environments. Wouldn't it be better to wait another year before encouraging people to work, study and pray outside their homes?
    They keep telling us that covid does not respect nationalities or borders or religions or political parties. It sounds like every government in the world agrees. So... why nobody at the United Nations is proposing a universal strategy to fight covid? What is the point of having national strategies in the USA, Britain, European Union, China, Japan, etc if covid does not respect borders?
    For most of 2020 i blamed politicians/clowns like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson for the way the virus spread all over the West; but i now must admit that it would have been difficult to stop it even when more competent and honest politicians (however, competent and honest politicians would have probably saved a lot of the lives that were lost in the early months). Covid have spread to every corner of the globe, and the Asian and Pacific countries that were success stories are now experiencing their worst outbreaks. It may be time to accept that covid cannot be stopped. It wasn't "stoppable" from the beginning.
    Is it time to accept that we will have to live with covid for at least a century and just start planning life around covid? Is it time to accept that we were optimistic when we assumed that the age of infectious diseases was over? There was a brief period of time when most infectious diseases were becoming rare. Maybe we have to accept that infectious diseases have not disappeared. In fact, maybe we have to accept that the increased number of people on this planet, their rapid urbanization and their frequent and fast long-distance travels, whether for tourism or business, have created the conditions for infectious diseases to become more (not less) prevalent? (even without taking into account climate change, whose impact on viruses is still not well studied).
    Can we just accept that crowds are no longer "cool"? Can we just accept that life in a city may sound glamorous but it's actually more dangerous than life in the countryside? Can we accept that the distance between spectators at a stadium has to be double what it used to be, that trains and buses should run at half capacity, that shops and restaurants should be limited to half what they used to, and that people should work from home as much as possible? The hostility towards all of this comes from businesses. We keep hearing the stories of restaurants and gyms who are about to fail. But is it really so important to keep living the same way we lived in the last half century? Can business adapt to a different lifestyle? If "crowding" becomes unpopular and even forbidden, several kinds of business will become extinct but new kinds of business will be created. Which other businesses can be created than Amazon, Netflix, Zoom, food delivery and social media, all of them currently thriving in the middle of a pandemic? In some cases society may even benefit: who is opposed to reducing traffic?
    Even the strongest believers in human-made climate change seem to have forgotten that the covid pandemic comes in the middle of another crisis, that of climate change, which could be even worse. Is it possible that by adapting to the covid crisis we can remedy, at least in part, the climate crisis?
    I cannot claim to know how the world can function properly without "crowding" (particularly schools), but i feel that, from the beginning, we have refused to contemplate "worst-case scenarios", and we only considered the best-case scenario that at some point life will return to what it was before (and, from the beginning of covid, most people assumed that the return to normal life was just around the corner, the super-best-case scenario). What if the exact opposite happens: what if variants keep popping up? what if another infectious disease starts spreading, unrelated to covid but equally deadly?
    If we only plan for the best-case scenario, we're betting that Nature is on our side. Given what we have done to Nature over the centuries, i don't see why Nature should be so kind to us.

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