16 July 2021

Dealing with a changing pandemic

Covid-19 is now almost entirely a problem only for the unvaccinated.  Within the US, roughly half the population is now vaccinated, yet 99.5% of covid-19 deaths are occurring among unvaccinated people, as are over 90% of hospitalizations.  Even when a vaccinated person gets the disease, it is far less likely to result in death or serious symptoms than in an unvaccinated person.

At the same time, due to the spread of the delta variant, covid-19 is becoming more dangerous to the unvaccinated than it was earlier in the pandemic.  More young people are developing serious cases, and people are dying faster.

So the US population is now bifurcated into two groups among whom the pandemic is following opposite trajectories.  Among the vaccinated, it is petering out and disappearing.  But among the unvaccinated, it is resurging and becoming deadlier than ever, including among younger people who previously were at much lower risk.

Moreover, which group a person is in is now almost entirely a matter of choice.  The vaccines are easily available in great abundance all over the country.  In most cases, people stay unvaccinated only because they choose to be so (there are a few exceptions such as illegal aliens who shun contact with anything they associate with government authority, or legal minors whose freedom of choice is overridden by anti-vax parents).  In most cases the rejection of vaccination is rooted in willful refusal to accept the known facts about the dangers of covid-19 and the efficacy of the vaccines, which in turn is rooted in political or religious ideology.  Anyone who regularly reads right-wing blogs and "news" sites knows that that camp's opposition to vaccination is firm and truculent.  In one recent notorious case, the audience at CPAC actually cheered news of the country's failure to reach its vaccination target.  Making covid-19 vaccination compulsory would fail for the same reason alcohol prohibition failed and sex-work prohibition fails and gun prohibition would fail.  It's not possible to enforce laws which a large part of the population, including many of the people who would need to do the enforcing, simply don't accept as legitimate.

So, the militantly unvaccinated are pretty much unreachable.  The government has done what it can.  It's time to accept that that element of the population has chosen to leave itself vulnerable to disease and death, and leave them to face the consequences of their decision, since doing so no longer poses much threat to the vaccinated.

(Also, to be blunt, the kind of people who reject science in favor of ideology, who threw tantrums at the minor inconvenience of wearing masks to protect others, who cheer at the failure of a public-health campaign, who mostly voted for Trump and continue to embrace the hateful bullshit he represents -- these are the kind of people the country would better off with fewer of, anyway.)

The objection is sometimes made that allowing covid-19 to fester endemically in a large sub-population will facilitate the continuing appearance of new variants, perhaps eventually one which would be resistant to the existing vaccines and thus threaten the vaccinated population.

Here's the critical thing to remember about that point, though.  To the extent that this is a possibility, it makes no difference whether the unvaccinated people you're talking about are inside the United States or outside it.  The delta variant originated in India and spread very rapidly all over the world, just as the original covid-19 itself originated in China and did the same.  This will be the case with future variants as well.  National borders have proven pretty much irrelevant to the spread of this disease.  If you are a vaccinated American worried about unvaccinated populations fostering the rise of a new variant which could defeat the vaccines, then an unvaccinated individual in Bengal or Ethiopia presents exactly the same risk to you as an unvaccinated individual in Florida or Missouri does.

The differences between the two cases are (a) most unvaccinated Americans have already decided to reject the vaccine and any further efforts to get them to accept it are likely to be futile, whereas most unvaccinated people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America do want the vaccine but cannot obtain it due to supply problems; and (b) the unvaccinated population in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is far larger than the unvaccinated population in the US, so the risk of a dangerous new variant arising there is correspondingly greater.

So, even if you care only about the security of our own country (and I would hope that most people reading this do also care about Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans for their own sake), the most effective course of action now is to do all we can to increase the supply of vaccines to countries where many people want those vaccines but cannot get them.  This could involve suspending the patent-law obstacles which now inhibit more widespread vaccine manufacturing, and/or increasing our own production so that we can provide greater supplies to other countries.  We're already doing this to some extent, but far more is needed.

The US is not an island, and 96% of the world is outside the US.  That point must always be front and center of all our thinking about global problems like pandemics and climate change.  Nature pays little heed to human-drawn lines on maps.


Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

Excellent, thoughtful post. Thank you!

16 July, 2021 04:55  
Blogger Comrade Misfit said...

I'm going to link to this.

16 July, 2021 07:14  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...


16 July, 2021 10:34  
Blogger Tundra Bunny said...

Major media outlets around the world should be posting opinion pieces such as yours: it's thoughtful, concise and grounded in reality.

16 July, 2021 11:04  
Anonymous NickM said...

The Euro 2020 final (it was put of from last year due to COVID) was recently held at Wembley Stadium in London. There were outrageous scenes including a man (without a ticket) who charged through security with a lit flare up his arse. He claimed to have also drunk 20 cans of cider and taken cocaine. So, you are completely right. Basically bad behaviour can be legislated agianst but that does'nt mean it ain't going to happen.

16 July, 2021 12:30  
Blogger Jack said...

It does seem like the only way to reduce the chances of additional variants developing is to eradicate it everywhere, and that means making sure the vaccine is available everywhere.

16 July, 2021 13:19  
Blogger Mike said...

My daughter unfortunately has Chron's disease. She is on an immune suppressant drug. She had two Pfizer shots and then got tested for anti-bodies. She has none. She is at risk because of trumpers.

16 July, 2021 13:32  
Blogger Bohemian said...

This is an excellent Post and expresses everything I feel about what is happening regarding the Pandemic. I find it doubtful the Anti-Vax Herd will come around, so Natural Selection will be unmercifully at work as Nature just tends to do, I also agree that less of that Herd ain't such a bad thing for the rest of us. As for the World at Large, it is unfortunate that the Haves and Haves Not is starkly evident in the distribution of Vaccines. Even in some Countries that I thought were 1st World, like Australia, I'm hearing from Bloggers there that even the highest risk folks only recently were able to get it and then had to settle for one of the Vaccines that had the most risk to their demographic, WTF? It's not going to be a level playing field with any of this and until everyone is safe, nobody will be safe, I think we'll have to live with and come to terms with that sad Reality moving forward.

16 July, 2021 22:47  
Blogger Kay said...

Beautiful written and so very true. I really wish unvaccinated people would see reason.

16 July, 2021 23:14  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Hackwhacker: Thanks!

Misfit: Thanks for the link.

JackieSue: Yes.....

Tundra: Thanks, I appreciate it. I'm not sure most major media outlets would care for my writing off the Trumpanzees as not worth saving, unfortunately.

Nick: Somehow I believe him about the cider and cocaine. The ass flare, theatrical as it doubtless was, would have been much less self-destructive than rejecting vaccines.

Jack: Unfortunately, eradicating it everywhere seems impossible at this point. We are back to the Dark Ages with part of the population making a positive virtue out of being dirty and diseased. All we can do is reduce it as much as possible -- send vaccines to people in India who will use them rather than to people in Missouri who refuse them.

Mike: That's the worst part of the situation -- the cases of people who either cannot be vaccinated for some valid medical reason, or on whom it is not effective. The only thing she can do is to spend time only among vaccinated people, as much as possible. The Trumpanzees' selfishness is impenetrable.

Bohemian: Thanks. It may be that if the rates of death and "long covid" among the unvaccinated reach disastrous-enough levels, more of them will eventually come around. Global-warming denialism has declined as the changes in the climate become more and more obvious. Until then, yes, it's basically natural selection in action. We should try to help people in other countries who at least want to be helped.

Kay: Thanks very much. Unfortunately we can't make them see reason. Maybe the virus can, eventually.

17 July, 2021 01:38  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

This is excellent. I, too, will link to it.

17 July, 2021 05:50  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

Excellent essay. Thoughtful and very well-written.

17 July, 2021 07:03  
Anonymous Lottie said...

"Moreover, which group a person is in is now almost entirely a matter of choice."

You do realize that none of the vaccines have been approved for children under twelve, don't you? Everybody in that age group is unvaccinated .

17 July, 2021 17:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Thanks for the link!

Ricko: Thanks, I appreciate it.

18 July, 2021 00:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lottie: Covid-19 almost never produces serious symptoms in people that young. If a variant emerges which does, then vaccination will be approved for that age range very quickly (and I would prefer that it be approved now). And in that case, unfortunately but inevitably, the kids' safety will depend on whether or not their parents are liberals who trust the vaccines or Trumpanzees who reject them.

18 July, 2021 00:16  
Blogger Martha said...

Wonderful post! You are right. Everything possible has been done to reach the anti-vax and conspiracy theorists. There's nothing left to do. Sadly, many of them will become cautionary tales but that was their choice. I was actually just reading about one such story from my hometown. A woman who was deeply immersed in conspiracy theories and refused to get vaccinated. She caught the virus, got very sick and ended up in the hospital. When she realized she wasn't going to make it, she started telling everyone that she was wrong and that they should get the vaccine. Very sad story. And a death that could have been prevented. I have a couple of very close friends who are at risk because they've been caught up in all that nonsense lately. There is nothing I or anyone else can do. We all make a choice. My husband and I got both our shots, and I'm pleased that both my children and their partners have been vaccinated.

18 July, 2021 16:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Martha: The best one can hope for is that as more and more anti-vaxers die, some of their immediate relatives will wise up. That will take a while, though.

19 July, 2021 01:37  

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