Can we just lay off the vax wars now? We’ve got the vaxholes blaming the unvaccinated for rising Covid cases, while the anti-vaxxers shout back that it’s the vaccinated who are the real Covid Marys.
Turns out they’re probably both wrong.
A new study has examined the proposed link between vaccination rates and Covid cases – and found none. Neither low nor high vaccination rates are significantly correlated with Covid case numbers.
At the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases in the last 7 days (Fig. 1). In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. Notably, Israel with over 60% of their population fully vaccinated had the highest COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in the last 7 days. The lack of a meaningful association between percentage population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases is further exemplified, for instance, by comparison of Iceland and Portugal. Both countries have over 75% of their population fully vaccinated and have more COVID-19 cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa that have around 10% of their population fully vaccinated.
As the scatterplot shows, the data are all over the place. There’s a mildly positive trendline associated with higher-vaccinated countries, but hardly anything to justify the anti-vaxxers saying, “Told you so!” After all, there are at least two other countries with new cases as high as Israel’s – both of which have low rates of vaccinations.
Across the US counties too, the median new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days is largely similar across the categories of percent population fully vaccinated (Fig. 2). Notably there is also substantial county variation in new COVID-19 cases within categories of percentage population fully vaccinated. There also appears to be no significant signaling of COVID-19 cases decreasing with higher percentages of population fully vaccinated (Fig. 3).
So what does all this mean?
Mostly, that the linking of vaccination rates to “opening up” previously locked-down jurisdictions is futile. Before the anti-vax crowd get too carried away, it also means that the vaccines are not causing an explosion in Covid cases.
In particular, though, this is yet another blow to the “illusion of control” that underlies the mindset of politicians and public health bureaucrats. The virus will do what it will do and there’s no doing anything much about it.
The vaxholes especially need to cool their jets and stop trying to force everyone to get vaccinated. For many people, the vaccines will certainly provide a useful prophylactic against getting seriously ill from Covid, but they’re clearly not stopping the spread of the virus. Bullying and brow-beating is not just wrong, it’s a waste of time.
In summary, even as efforts should be made to encourage populations to get vaccinated it should be done so with humility and respect. Stigmatizing populations can do more harm than good. Importantly, other non-pharmacological prevention efforts (e.g., the importance of basic public health hygiene with regards to maintaining safe distance or handwashing, promoting better frequent and cheaper forms of testing) needs to be renewed in order to strike the balance of learning to live with COVID-19 in the same manner we continue to live a 100 years later with various seasonal alterations of the 1918 Influenza virus.SpringerLink
It’s a mistake to think that the virus behind the Spanish ’Flu simply disappeared after 1918. Of course it didn’t: H1N1 (the virus responsible) is still around and still shows up as seasonal ’flus — indeed, it last caused a pandemic in 2009. What happened, instead, was that the virus rapidly mutated (as SARS-CoV-2, the Covid virus is also doing) and as it did so, became rapidly less lethal.
Fingers crossed, this is also what appears to be happening with Covid. For all the hysteria about Delta, it appears to be a much more infectious but a far less deadly strain than the original Alpha variant.
Covid appears to be well on track to become yet another seasonal bug. So, can we drop all the hysteria and treat it like one? Make the seasonal vaccine available for all who want or need it and stop trying to bully everyone into having it – and drop all the conspiracy theories, too.
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