Originally published at: Vexed by the Un-Vaxxed – Quillette
“I’ve been reading…” That was the response I received from one of the staffers of Skeptic magazine when I asked why she wasn’t vaccinated. My query came on the saddest day in our 30-year history—we were mourning the death of Pat Linse, the Art Director, co-founder of the magazine and the Skeptics Society, and my…
Originally published at: Vexed by the Un-Vaxxed – Quillette
The stupid truth is that no matter what you do, there will always be people who question the science regardless of how convincing the science is. 99.999% success is still not enough for some people so self-centred to think they’d be the exception to that rule. Self-aggrandizment is a trait common among anti-vaxxers who think they’ll both be fine from a virus proving highly contagious, and yet so vulnerable and weak that if they were to take a vaccine they’d suddenly drop dead.
Distrust of media and government naturally force people onto the internet to look for information. When they do, they encounter “literature” and tell everyone else to “look at the literature” without realising the literature in question is written by a disgraced former doctor who hasn’t even spent a day in a medical lab.
I was put onto a documentary about 9/11 when I was in high school by a youth leader from my church. I got bored and switched it off after about 5 minutes. This, coming from a man who thought the earth was 6000 years old and that a god had made the earth in 7 periods of 24 hours.
He rested on the 7th.
Fair point. After six 24 hour shifts I’d probably need a day of rest too.
I’m a vaccinated Republican. I think Mitt Romney is also vaccinated. By 2025, when Sean Hannity’s vacated talk radio slot is taken over by Jason Momoa and the Ocasio-Cortez administration starts printing trillion-dollar bills for the convenience of grocery shoppers, Mitt and I are not going to be enough of a quorum to restrain the wildest schemes of the left.
Overr the years, I have called out the left on the many anti-science positions it has taken on subjects like GMOs, nuclear power, and building telescopes on mountainsides they keep retroactively claiming as sacred. Now that the right has chosen to be the stupid party on a science issue in the middle of a global crisis, it’s time to call them out too.
Over at the comments section of a previous Quillette article, “Looking for COVID-19 ‘Miracle Drugs’? We Already Have Them. They’re Called Vaccines” we have been over this time and again. But what have we here? An article from someone at Skeptic magazine criticising scepticism. Sigh. The author probably does not have molecular biology qualifications and so relies for his understanding/opinions on the reports of others, in the midst of a crisis where political and big pharma agendas, and the Trusted News Initiative, distort the availability of information that does not fit the desired narrative. Meanwhile,
For the truly sceptical, the groupthink on display is jarring.
P.S. And before the commentators from the previous article get started on this one, can I remind people of the Community Guidelines?
Since Quillette is meant to be all about free speech, I am very reluctant to flag anyone. But if we could just filter out the personal denigration, childish demeaning language etc. that would be great!
Look, I largely agree with the author on COVID vaccines- the cost-benefit analysis largely supports getting vaccinated- although for younger people the evidence is less clear. At under thirty the risks from Astra Zeneca somewhat outweigh the risks from the vaccine, and, although the risk thresholds for Moderna and Pfizer are much lower, they tend to be weighted towards those with the strongest immune responses, the young. Research desperately needs to be done to compare risks from vaccines to risks from COVID for the young- the Pfizer study is the only one of its kind so far.
In particular, a number of scientists and medical experts have made the case that, because children have more adaptive immune systems, with resistance to coronavirus infections embedded in their immune system (which adults lose), it may be the case that natural immunity in children may be more adaptive to future COVID strains, with repeated exposure to the virus. Unfortunately, most governments and public health institutions have taken the position that the reduced chances of children spreading COVID with vaccination represents a compelling argument for children to get vaccinated.
Not only is the scientific thinking faulty here, based upon assumptions built into models which have been proven wrong time and again, but it also raises very genuine questions of medical ethics. In particular, the JCVI in the UK has been somewhat reluctant to embrace vaccinations for children, although unfortunately the UK government has recently reversed its position, purely on the basis of the reduced risk of virus spread which children pose, when vaccinated.
This should ring alarm bells, because although the British Medical and Scientific Establishment has demonstrated flaws of its own in relation to trans kids and the need for the consultation of non-ideological clinicians prior to making life-changing decisions, they have at least shown greater institutional integrity in resolving not to bow to the political or cultural pressures, in the interests of their patients.
But there are a couple of points which need rebutting. First, the psychology of trying to convince conservatives and libertarians to get vaccinated has been botched from the start. The absolute worst thing that media or politicians could suggest- if trying to get these two groups to get vaccinated- is the threat of government force and coercion. It’s tantamount to telling Democrats that the vaccine program will be run by the fossil fuel industry, on a profit basis.
Plus, legacy media and even the CDC tarnished their reputation beyond recovery with conservatives. Declaring racism a public health emergency or caliming that BLM protests were perfectly safe, when clearly more peaceful 2A protests were a threat to public safety, smacked of partisanship- especially when 13 cases of unarmed Black men shot in one year by a total American police force of over 800,000 officers does not constitute a public health emergency (but is a tragedy), nor does differential rates of death and hospitalisation by ethnicity, when roughly 80% of the difference appears to be based upon genetics, epigenetics and dietary considerations (vitamin D deficiencies). For details, see the rates of hospitalisation and death per population amongst British Pakistani and British Hindu populations, which are genetically similar, but possess differing socio-economic profiles.
Add to that the fact that pre-vaccine lockdowns (excepting border lockdowns) appear to have proven largely ineffectual in combatting COVID spread- and the responses of both the politicians of the Left, and to a lesser extent, public health officials, have been throwing away whatever institutional credibility they once possessed. The Left may quibble on this point, citing Sweden compared to its neighbours, when a fairer comparison might be Spain or France, given their geographic and demographic profile- but in recent months Peru, with some of the harshest COVID lockdowns throughout the pandemic, have proven the false sense of security conveyed by lockdowns- with 5,893 deaths per million with an average age of 31, compared to 2,655 per million in Brazil, it is easy with hindsight to see just how ineffective lockdowns were.
To be fair, it is not that lockdowns were completely ineffective- in any population one will find the stubborn 5% committed to pursuing idiocy by any means necessary- but the effect of these fools was minimal at best. But evidence from the UK, with the first asymmetric wave not caused by a new variant, gives us a revelatory glimpse at what was really going on in relation to lockdowns and COVID non-compliance. It was not that lockdowns were completely ineffective-just marginal at best- for the simple reason that ordinary people exercising caution and good sense at the first signs of COVID cases in their locality, was far more effective at combatting COVID spread than government mandates ever could be.
With Freedom Day, and UEFA Euro 2021, us Brits abandoned our acquired caution, prudent adherence to local intelligence gathering and decided that the pandemic was officially over for a large proportion of us. Whether it was blokes alternately hugging and commiserating over the football, or young people returning to clubs in the hopes of getting laid- we collectively threw caution to the wind. It shows in the new cases data- although the peak has been passed for the moment, the usual precipitous fall in case numbers has not been evident- the behavioural economics have changed. In the first few weeks after July 19th, Freedom Day, people still continued to wear masks and social distance in shops and other enclosed spaces. In the past week or so, this has changed- a tipping point of social enforcement has been reached- and it will be interesting to see in 10 to 14 days time what the effect will be.
But generally you see my point- in America’s hyper-partisan landscape there has been delusion on both sides, although with vaccinations, I would have to say that currently the misinformation on the Right in relation to vaccines is likely to be more inimical to life in the short-term, even though the economic damage caused by unnecessary lockdowns (other than the initial lockdowns, when we didn’t know what we were dealing with) may well end up costing more lives, over time.
But just as many stubborn holdout Republicans need to revise their thinking on vaccines, Democrats need to acknowledge that we will never be COVID free again, with the current technology. If vaccinated, they need to overcome their irrational fear of COVID exposure- because there is simply no way way they will ever be able to live in the world again, other than as a complete lock-in, if they want to avoid the virus.
This article from Nature shows us the truth:
Even then, world-leading scientists were sceptical of us ever becoming COVID free. But with the new data on Delta and vaccine efficacy in preventing virus transmission, which shows that vaccinations is only 64% effective at preventing virus spread, this number is simply too low to confer herd immunity through vaccination. We could have 100% of population vaccinated and we would still see total numbers of cases close to their current levels in each wave.
All that is required is an understanding that it will be the immunity conferred by your vaccination which will limit the damage caused by COVID, not the actions of others. If we take an average person, with only a 100 regular contacts through their family or cohabiters, work, shopping requirements- going only one space removed from source- and it is easy to see the ability of viruses to explore multiple vectors to transmission and the mechanics of human distributed networks will mean the virus will always get through. If you daily extended contacts only one spreader instead of three, your immune system will dictate whether you suffer from COVID, not the vaccination status of others. There will be only three major effects from more widespread vaccination.
First, fewer people will die, be hospitalised or suffer long-term health consequences. It could be you or your family- and despite the fact that the media has not been forthcoming with information on negative side effects, the conservative distributed network of knowledgeable researchers has shown that even if the risks of infection or death are minimal, and your location protects you somewhat, vaccination with potential side effects is better than no vaccination at all, unless you are a child or under 25 with no comorbidities (where the issue is not settled).
Second, although the total number of cases in each wave will likely only dip slightly, it may well be that future waves may be less truncated, as the virus takes longer to explore potential vectors to its food supply. This may well put less pressure on medical services, and even have more positive outcomes in terms of other health conditions, such as cancer or heart disease- as freed capacity means serious medical issues can be dealt with in a timely fashion. Finally, it will prolong the derangement on the Left and amongst Democrats who will remain convinced, despite the mounting evidence, that higher rates of vaccination will somehow stop the relentless and unstoppable waves.
Here in the UK, we have benefited greatly from a lack of partisan bias driving the debate over COVID and vaccinations. Yes, we have our vaccine sceptics too, and there is a far more considerable contingent who have questioned the efficacy of lockdowns- sometimes irrationally, but also based upon growing empirical evidence. But for the most part we have followed mask mandates and social distancing when in enclosed spaces. Vaccine uptake is high, and we are the perfect testbed to see how effective higher rates of vaccination are at preventing virus spread, and, like the Israelis, the answer has been not very.
If you are a conservative and over forty I would get vaccinated. I would probably do the same above thirty. It’s only below 25 where the issue becomes trickier, for the simple reason that the science isn’t there yet. But if you want to have a real incentive for getting vaccinated- if vaccinated, you can travel to a Democrat city, not wear a mask or social distance, and when some whiny liberal starts to complain, you can tell them to shut-up because you’ve been vaccinated- and at this point there is simply no way of preventing COVID from becoming endemic. Not with Delta.
I no longer worry about why the unvaxxed remain that way. They’ve had plenty of opportunity, and nothing at this point will change their mind. And that’s fine, it’s their choice.
I am hoping that the vaxxed will progressively demand separation from the unvaxxed, and that this will progressively become a winning business strategy for it to be catered to. It is this aspect of the race with delta that I will pay attention to. We are starting to see that now, with some concerts and sporting events, and hopefully this continues to build to involve more and more business sectors. If that serves as further motivation for the hesitant to commit, great; if it doesn’t, so be it.
I disagree with Shermer’s approach mostly because he hasn’t considered the whole picture…which is the global one. Whatever abysmal vax rate we have in the most laggard county is still miles ahead of much of the non-first world. While high vax rates here may help in the short term, we have hit a plateau that I doubt we will surge through, so the strategy has to be geared for the medium term until world uptake increases substantially overall. Hopefully, international borders will remain closed to the unvaxxed, or at least with stringent quarantine and testing for those with a legitimate inability to be vaccinated. And even for the vaccinated, travel to countries with low vax rate should come with some requirements upon their return.
Not all skepticism is equal. There’s evidenced based skepticism & then there’s denial…
And all anti vaxer propagandists do?
Beats facebook ‘research’….
Shermer’s reference to Jacobson v Massachusetts (1905) does not adequately capture the case itself or mention the case’s unfortunate progeny, Buck v Bell (1927).
The mortality rate of smallpox was about 30%. In Jacobson the consequence of not getting vaccinated against small pox was a $5 fine (present equivalent about $200). Twenty-two years later in Buck v Bell the Supreme Court relied on Jacobson and held that the state could forcibly surgically sterilize mental incompetents. Buck was, of course, cited by the defense at the Nuremberg Trials.
Covid is much less lethal than smallpox, the vaccination is much less effective and, being a corona virus that was intentionally created in what appears to have been a joint enterprise by the US CDC and the Peoples’ Republic of China, variant strains will always be cropping up.
Governments do seem to be using Covid as something like the Reichstag Fire to extinguish civil rights and imposed a totalitarian regime.
Apparently, the author simultaneously holds the beliefs that (A) vaccination provides excellent 99.999 percent protection and that (B) an unvaccinated employee puts the lives of all the vaccinated people in the office at risk. Quite an astonishing contradiction, it cannot both be true. Besides, taking advantage of a position of power to berate a subordinate for making a personal, perfectly legal health decision is bullying, plain and simple.
And the counterpart to notorious anti-vaxxers are the vaccination fanatics, who typically were also lockdown fanatics until recently: People who are only satisfied when in times of crisis the whole society marches in lockstep in the same direction, because SCIENCE !
There may be a fourth reason, not mentioned by the author, why people hesitate to get vaccinated. After the numerous drastic coercive measures of the last twenty months, many of which were previously unknown in liberal western democracies, some people may simply be tired of constantly being persuaded, exhorted, pressured, lied to, incited, coerced, bullied, humiliated, denounced, threatened, criminalized, and punished into submission to an increasingly totalitarian mode of government.
Just thought this deserved to be posted twice.
To date, if you are vaccinated, there is a 99.999 (yes, three nines!) percent probability that you will not be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
As Thomas Sowell might say, “as compared to what?” What is my risk of dying if I remain un-vaxxed, but I receive the latest and best treatment in the event of infection? I believe it is north of 99% (as I am healthy, no comorbities).
Also, this aside:
“the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.”
No. I do not believe this is true. I believe that a natural infection and natural immunity are far superior.
It’s just a small thing and, yes, anecdotal, but just this hour I received this from a relative in Sydney,
“Just spoke to one of my fitters who I hope can measure some stuff for me if I get stuck home. He has just had the first jab despite not wanting it but would have gone broke without it. He said his uncle (65 years old) had his first jab 2 weeks ago and suffered a stoke 3 days later. Survived and was told it was unrelated to his vaccine despite his doctor who injected him believing it was. Wow what are the odds of that coincidence.”
A few days ago, I received this from a old friend (former medical doctor, research scientist, and federal politician),
“You may remember Jessica J*** who attended my 90th (husband Graeme and both of who I mentioned for their very generous help with fence replacement). Jessica had her first jab about a week ago and has been in bed quite ill ever since. According to Graeme her heart rhythm has been going haywire.*”
and from an extremely capable friend in Hong Kong,
“too many weird stories, including from friends, two of whom have had their parents suddenly die on them after being vaccinated.”
If the new technology vaccines are meant to be so safe, why am I hearing so many stories like this from people I know personally? As my relative said, “what are the odds?” I would expect to hear such things on social media which has a reach of billions since there is always someone out there suffering some form of bizarre bad luck. But this isn’t that. It’s people connected to me. Feeds my scepticism.
This is very fair, I used to think exactly this as well. However it was pointed out to me that the two metrics being compared not apples to apples.
Consider. Lets say there is a virus that kills 99 percent of anyone who is infected by it. Also lets say there is a vaccine for this virus which offers 95 percent protection.
- Scenario one: 10,000 unvaccinated people catch the virus. We would expect 100 people to die.
- Scenario two: 10,000 vaccinated people catch the virus. In this case we would expect only 5 to die.
A twentyfold difference.
Thank you for your response. So darn much to consider here. A twenty-fold difference in a very, very small number is, however, still a very, very small number.
I exercise regularly, I am not undergoing chemo nor am I obese, so I believe my risk surviving the pandemic is, at this point, >99.9%. By getting vaxxed I would be participating in a Phase 3 type trial wherein the risks of these “investigational vaccines” may not be observable for several years. Moreover, the current vaccines are aimed at the Wuhan strain, not the Delta variant. And the Delta variant is not as deadly. (Muller’s Ratchet: each mutation becomes more virulent, but less severe.)
Also, viruses are mutating in the vaccinated. Thus, if Covid does develop more dangerous strains, it would arguably be the fault of those who chose to fight the pandemic with these vaccines rather than by other drugs or with effective treatments.
But then, after the world-wide “clinical trial,” how much am I going to trust FDA approval after Fauci exhorted the FDA to approve the vaccines “by the end of August (2021).” In any event, I am going to sit out the world-wide “clinical trial” of these “investigational vaccines” for a year or so to see what the efficacy and risks of the vaccines are. Meanwhile, I might contract Covid. (Those who have had Covid enjoy a more robust immunity than the vaccines provide.)
PS: I have not even touched on the efficacy of prophylactic ivermectin!
Three degrees of separation, I’m three degrees of separation from about everyone in New Zealand. (I know a few hundred people who know a few hundred people who know a few hundred people).
I’m not one for small talk, but my wife is, after she’s met someone (often through buying and selling online) it seems almost inevitable that she’ll come back to report to me that the person she traded with is a friend of a friend - and she usually only bothers telling me if it’s a trade with someone in another part of the country.
This article raises a lot of good points, but some bad ones as well. The author focuses almost entirely on conservatives / Republicans as the problem, citing surveys and anecdotal reports.
The problem is, surveys of U.S. citizens typically under-sample the Right – sometimes dramatically. I, and most soft-core conservatives I know, just don’t respond. We hang up. Not interested.
So – is there actual data can we use? Well, when I was vaccinated back in January, I was asked a few questions. Not about my politics, but definitely about my demographics – age, sex and race. And, lo-and-behold, those factors can be looked at when looking at unvaccinated populations, in fact the CDC does so, here: CDC COVID Data Tracker
What do we see? With respect to age, vaccination rates among older groups are actually quite high – 80% or so completely vaccinated, 90% having had at least one dose. Nice. After that, rates drop steadily with decreasing age:
The data on race is interesting. Blacks have by far the lowest rate, Hispanics are slightly below whites, Asians above whites. Interestingly, Native Americans are at the top:
Based on these two graphs, the major unvaccinated groups are young people, Blacks, and, to a lesser degree, Hispanics. Whites are right in the middle.
So - back to politics. Young people, Blacks, and Hispanics all lean left. While I don’t for a minute doubt that huge numbers of conservatives aren’t getting vaccinated, I question the author concentrating on them exclusively. (FWIW, it seems to be taboo for anyone in the media to interview an unvaccinated Black person.)
How to address this? It seems to me that there need to be multiple strategies, aimed at each of these groups. Personally I’ve had a number of conversations with conservative friends and family. I’ve convinced a few to get the vaccine (people tend to trust pharmacists) – mostly by calmly responding to their fears. I’m currently working on a niece (she’s concerned about fertility), and my sister is referring one of her friends to me, a nurse who’s facing job loss unless she gets vaccinated. (Hopefully I can help her with this, we’re facing a severe nursing shortage here in Washington state.)
So to the author - I suspect you lean left, any thoughts on how to bring the low-vax groups on your side of the political fence into the fold?
(BTW, bonus points if you spotted the flaw in the chart showing race. The highest rate it shows for fully-vaccinated is under 50%, which is obviously untrue. What is not shown is the number for folks who didn’t check a box in the race category. There’s no denominator for that group, obviously, therefore no rate.)
When the government and Big Tech collude to crack down on dissent, the people smell a rat, and distrust the message. Censorship is always counter-productive. It always backfires. Let the debate rage about the vaccine. Put people on the air and let them duke it out. I stopped reading this article when it engaged in ridiculous hyping of the dangers of covid. Most of the people who die “from” covid (this is a major source of misinformation) are very old and have underlying health conditions. The author was willfully deceptive on that score. This is what causes people to mistrust the government, media, and experts. Free flourishing speech is the solution and not the problem. The author demonizes skeptical people. Why does a healthy person in her 20s need this vaccine? It is a legitimate question that should be discussed and debated. Instead we get smears and slanders which generate a lot of justification for fear among the population. Where, oh, where is the discussion about the responsibility of obese people to lead healthier lives?