26 July 2021


Over the last few days, some right-wing leaders in the US have abruptly pivoted to a more pro-vaccine message.  Moscow Mitch, Sean Hannity, and Alabama governor Kay Ivey have been notable examples.  Recently senator Tommy Tuberville and Sarah Huckabee Sanders added their voices (the latter garnished with a steaming pile of liberal-bashing, but still).  And the reason is becoming obvious.

Almost all the people who ever paid attention to the anti-covid-vaccine nonsense in the first place (and to the allied nonsense that downplayed the threat posed by the disease), are their own right-wing followers.  Rejection of the vaccine, like rejection of mask-wearing and of the facts about the lethality of covid-19, have become a mark of right-wing tribal identity.  This is why, throughout the pandemic, most of the states with the highest per-capita covid-19 case loads and death rates have been red states, despite most of those states being thinly populated and thus theoretically less vulnerable to an infectious disease.  Florida, perhaps the most urbanized red state, is being devastated.

The adult (over 18) population of the US is 258 million.  Right now, 155 million US adults (60%) are fully vaccinated, and a further 23 million (9%) have received one shot of the two-shot vaccines.  Those 23 million have some protection against the disease, though not as much as the fully-vaccinated, but the remaining 80 million are totally unprotected.  That 80 million, it's safe to assume, consists mostly of the hard-core right-wing base (there are a few people who cannot be vaccinated for various medical reasons, but the numbers are fairly small).  Consistent with that, 80% of the unvaccinated say they "probably" or "definitely" will never accept the vaccine.

Currently, 99.5% of covid-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated 31% of the adult population.  While some vaccinated people are still getting the disease, it rarely becomes serious or lethal among them.  Crippling, deadly covid-19 is now almost entirely confined to the unvaccinated.

The new delta variant is far more infectious than the original covid-19, and also deadlier since it is killing greater numbers of younger people.  As best we can tell, the vaccines provide the same protection against delta as against the original covid-19 -- if you are vaccinated, you are substantially less likely to get infected, and vastly less likely to become seriously ill or die (this is based on what's going on in the US -- some other countries are using different vaccines which may be less effective than the three being used here, which means that data from those countries is less relevant to our situation).  So it seems safe to assume that the death toll from the oncoming wave of delta-variant infections will continue to be almost entirely among the unvaccinated.

How bad is it going to get?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, in the US there have been 35 million total reported covid-19 cases and 610,000 deaths, a death rate of 1 in 57 (it's likely that the true number of both cases and deaths is higher, but even if both figures are, say, twice as high in reality, the ratio would be about the same).  Since the delta variant kills a higher proportion of the younger adults who contract it, it seems safe to assume the death rate will be substantially higher, perhaps 1 in 40 or even worse.

Given the much greater infectiousness of the delta variant, this analysis projects that it will sweep the entire unvaccinated population of the US in just four months.  CNN's chief medical correspondent concurs that soon Americans will be divided into just two groups -- the vaccinated and the infected.

If we have 80 million delta-variant cases in the next four months, and the death rate is 1 in 40, two million people will die.  In fact, there's reason to think it will be even worse.  My guess at how much deadlier the delta variant will be is probably too conservative.  Measures like lockdowns and mask mandates, which contained covid-19 somewhat during 2020, are unlikely to be re-imposed; and even if they are, the unvaccinated, who mostly downplay the disease, will be unlikely to comply.  A health-care system which was often overwhelmed by 35 million cases spread over a year and a half will be utterly overwhelmed by 80 million cases in four months, so the standard of medical care available will be lower.  And cases will be concentrated in red states and rural areas (since that's where most of the unvaccinated people are), where medical facilities are sparser and health conditions such as smoking and obesity are generally worse than in the cities.  There are too many unknowns to make hard estimates, but it seems reasonable to project that if most of the unvaccinated remain unvaccinated, there will be at least two million further covid-19 deaths in the US before the end of this year, likely far more.

And most of those who die will be voting-age conservatives, since that's the demographic which makes up most unvaccinated adults.  Even in a country as large as the US, two (or three or four) million deaths almost entirely on one side of the political divide will be enough to affect later election outcomes, especially since some states are almost 50-50, and most gerrymandered districts have only narrow Republican majorities.  Now you know why right-wing leaders are suddenly getting worried.  They see and know the reality of the situation, even if the delusional lemmings of their base don't.

Will their warnings turn the tide and persuade the unvaccinated to save themselves?  At the moment it doesn't look that way.  From what I'm seeing on the right-wing blogs and news sites I read, most rank-and-file wingnuts are so deeply committed to the anti-vax / covid-is-overblown narrative that they are brushing off the warnings or even denouncing those who issue them as RINOs.  McConnell's statement drew plenty of right-wing flak.  Hannity has already walked back his own warning.  The one thing that might make a real difference would be a strong pro-vaccine exhortation from Donald Trump himself, but Trump is not known for willingness to admit he was wrong about things, and he currently seems mainly interested in rehashing his claims about the 2020 election being stolen.

The suggestion that an advanced country like the United States might suffer millions of deaths from infectious disease, when the vaccines to prevent it are widely available, may seem like a ludicrous fantasy.  Yet I see no flaw in the logic here, and Republican leaders' rare willingness to challenge their base's delusions suggests that they too perceive the magnitude of the danger.  By far the worst of this pandemic is probably still ahead of us.

It will be the greatest mass suicide in history, a self-genocide.  The wingnut politicians and media con men who led their followers into this disaster make Jim Jones look like an amateur.


Blogger SickoRicko said...

Excellent post! It's terrific that most of the new deaths will be among wing-nut voters. Does that make me a horrible human being? Don't answer. I know.

26 July, 2021 08:34  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

"If we have 80 million delta-variant cases in the next four months, and the death rate is 1 in 40, two million people will die. In fact, there's reason to think it will be even worse."
All Repugs. All wilfully ignorant. Tiniest violin.
I can't help but think about the health care professionals who will be driven again to the brink of exhaustion by this horde of idiots. The MAGAts will die to own the libs and fuck up the efforts to get everybody vaccinated. Oh well.


26 July, 2021 09:00  
Blogger Mike said...

My daughter has had the two shots but she is immune-compromised. She took a test and does not have immunity. These are the people I worry about.

26 July, 2021 18:35  
Blogger Bohemian said...

I was just comparing Jim Jones to Trump and the ReTrumplican Sycophants... at least Jones served Kool-Aide. SickoRicko took the Words right out of my Mouth, some Gene Pools will be culled by Natural Selection at Work and Mother Nature can be a Cruel Bitch to those who are too unaware or stupid to make it, when what would Save them is Free and easily obtained, I just cannot feel the least bit of pity for what is clearly going to happen... not IF it will, just WHEN it will. What does concern me is they are a Breeding Ground for Super Variant Strains to emerge which could threaten all of the Human Species if it becomes so Vaccine resistant as to be more fatal in spite of doing everything Right... so the Anti-Vaxxers are letting Humanity down, they'd have to all Die quickly to avoid that scenario and the Nature of Parasitic Organisms has Evolved enough not to Kill every Host and therefore give it time to grow Stronger and Mutate to keep propogating.

26 July, 2021 20:49  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sicko: I wouldn't say it makes you a horrible human being -- because so many of them are.

Sixpence: I know, and I hate thinking about those doctors and nurses. But a lot of them in those parts of the country are quitting anyway because they're sick of dealing with the "it's all a hoax" mentality and being vilified by the people they're trying to save. I hope many of them will come to the blue cities where they'll be appreciated.

Mike: That's the worst part of the situation -- the cases of people who either can't be vaccinated for some medical reason, or on whom it isn't effective. The only thing she can do is to avoid unvaccinated people as much as possible. The Trumpanzees' selfishness is unforgivable. It's another reason why I feel no sympathy for them.

Bohemian: Unvaccinated people being a breeding ground for new variants is certainly a concern, which is why I argued that we should focus on getting vaccines out to other countries where people want them but can't get them, since the emergence of new variants anywhere in the world endangers everyone, including us.

It may be that when they see other unvaccinated people dying in really large numbers, the Trumpanzees will wise up and start getting the vaccines -- but I wouldn't bet much on it.

27 July, 2021 01:02  
Blogger Jack said...

Many of the people I hear from who are still opposed to vaccination make it sound like there is little hope of changing their minds now. A few high-profile Republican officials expressing support for vaccination may be a case of too little, too late. I'm not even sure a complete reversal by the Orange One would change many minds now. That said, there are some who might still be reachable. Every so often, I'll come across someone who hasn't made refusal all about politics and is basing their refusal on a poor understanding of science.

29 July, 2021 04:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jack: I'm still seeing no sign of any change in thinking on right-wing blogs and sites. They're just doubling down on the same anti-vax misinformation and conspiratardia. I suppose a few will change their minds, but not many, not in the near-term.

30 July, 2021 05:57  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

"Self-genocide". That's the perfect word for it. And yes, it will make Jonestown look like a kindergarten birthday party.

Even as some high profile Republicans have contracted COVID--including Trump--they still double down on their anti-vaxxer nonsense. And it's all to make Biden look bad.

I still keep hearing the BS that "both parties are the same". After what we've seen in regards to how Democrats and Republicans have handled the COVID pandemic, I really hope that this canard is buried forever.

30 July, 2021 08:28  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Marc: And of course many of those leaders, including Trump, have themselves gotten the vaccines they tell their dupes to shun.

I am still seeing no sign whatsoever on the wingnut internet of people wising up on this issue. It is harder than ever to feel any sympathy for what they're going to do to themselves. The stupidity is just exhausting.

30 July, 2021 13:54  
Blogger Martha said...

I don't think there's anything else that can be done at this point. Those who refuse to get vaccinated and those who are heavily immersed in conspiracy theories are not reachable. The virus will do what it's going to do and that's the end of it. The only sympathy I have is towards the healthcare workers who are stressed to a breaking point, to the immune-compromised and to all the vulnerable people who want to get vaccinated but can't.

01 August, 2021 03:32  

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