Reply To: Anti-vaxxer playbook

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Dave, 14:32:

“you support mass medication of millions of people with the drug cartels indemnified against harm.”

No, I support stamping it out with five weeks of strict social restraint:

I’m not opposed to vaccination; other vaccination programmes have been cheap, safe and effective, but I do have some doubts – what if the immunity it confers fades, or new strains escape that immunity? Mass vaccination could fail, whereas China has already demonstrated that short, sharp social restrictions are supremely effective.

But if there are mass vaccination programmes, it would be right for the pharmaceutical companies to be indemnified. Governments have asked for and paid for these programmes, and governments are pressuring the population into participating, so governments should pay compensation in the unlikely event it is warranted. The pharmaceutical companies haven’t had time for the usual testing programmes; governments have asked them for an emergency response. Governments have the other option of brief, strong social restrictions and supporting the people and economy through them, but they have opted for rapid vaccine deployment instead.

Gross negligence such as contaminated batches is a different matter; in such cases, the governments should compensate those people affected, and the governments should also sue the pharmaceutical companies. Remember, governments are supposed to serve the people.

“If it spreads fast then probably by now the whole population has had it and reached herd immunity…”

Two points here.

(1) The UK population can’t be approaching herd immunity or infections couldn’t have risen as fast as they did, from mid December 2020 to the first week of January 2021. This rise in the infection rate was confirmed by the matching rise in the death rate, with the characteristic two week lag.

Widespread immunity would slow the infection rate down because the virus particles are more likely to encounter an immune person than a suitable host*. But look at the December/January curve; it actually gets steeper until the lockdown restrictions suddenly arrest it, giving a sharply pointed peak; no sign of it plateauing before lockdown kicks in.

(* This is exactly the same as in secondary school chemistry; dilute solutions react much slower than concentrated ones, because the reactive molecules are more likely to encounter inert solvent molecules, and less likely to encounter the molecule they’d react with.)

(2) It’s looking less and less likely that widespread infection leads to herd immunity – this was just an assumption by the government back in February and early March, 2020 – probably wishful thinking. Look at Manaus. In tests after their first wave 66% of the population had antibodies, and it was estimated 76% of the population must have been infected at some time by the end of summer, and that’s about the herd immunity threshold.

But the second wave in Manaus is even bigger than the first, and many people are now known to have had covid at least twice.

This also has implications for mass vaccination programmes. If infection doesn’t confer lasting immunity, vaccines, which mimic parts of the virus, might not either. It troubles me that mass vaccination just before spring and summer might be mistimed, especially if everyone is being only one shot. It might be better to build up a big stock of vaccines, and administer two shots next autumn, or we might be in just as bad a situation next winter.