Kevin Roche: Pandemic of the vaccinated

Given the news of President Biden’s case of Covid, Mr. Techno Fog cruelly excavated the videos below of Biden lecturing us that the spread of the virus represents a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

My friend Kevin Roche holds down the fort at Healthy Skeptic. As I have many times before, I asked Kevin what it all means. He has graciously responded to my request for advice regarding Biden’s illness. Kevin writes (below the break):

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President Biden’s Covid-19 infection should be an opportunity for widespread reconsideration of the value of a number of epidemic response policies. The president was fully vaccinated and had received two boosters. He allegedly regularly wears a “high-quality” mask, although some photo evidence calls that into question. Yet, like most Americans, he has now become infected, apparently with mild symptoms.

The President’s case is another reminder that the vaccines have now beyond any doubt been shown to be completely ineffective at preventing either infection or transmission within a few months after receipt. This applies to boosters as well as to the original two-dose series In fact, some evidence suggests that the boosters lose effectiveness even more quickly than the original vaccination series. And the evidence is mounting that protection against severe disease, while holding up much better than that against infection, also lessens over time.

While the diminishing effectiveness may be partly due to viral evolution, it likely also reflects a basic characteristic of our immune systems, which don’t have unlimited resources. The response to a threat is usually proportional to its seriousness. The reality is that our immune systems correctly don’t view Covid-19 as a particularly dangerous peril. The system therefore mounts a limited “memory” cell and circulating antibody defense to aid in protecting against subsequent infection.

We are seeing the same effect in regard to the protection afforded by a prior infection. Although a prior infection seems to provoke a more durable response than vaccination alone, that response also wanes after a few months and we are experiencing large numbers of reinfections. Fortunately, a prior infection does seem to give longer lasting protection against serious disease.

Studies about the effectiveness of the immune response prompted by either prior infection or vaccination are increasingly difficult to do well. Estimates are that 80 percent to to 90 percent of Americans have either been infected or vaccinated or both. Finding groups of unvaccinated, uninfected persons for comparisons is difficult. And many studies fail even to attempt to incorporate the existence or nonexistence of a prior infection, rendering any conclusions essentially useless.

The President’s case should also be a warning about the possible paradoxical effects of repeated boosters. Prodding the immune system over and over with the same or similar antigens can result in an effect whereby the immune response is either muted or may be enhanced in a manner that actually leads to more serious disease due to a rampage of unleashed immune cells. Until the research becomes much clearer, I would avoid any more than one booster.

Most importantly, however, should be recognition, long overdue, that there is nothing that can be done to suppress a highly contagious respiratory virus and that our various efforts to that end are futile and costly — economically and socially. We can all wish for the President’s speedy recovery, not least because waiting in the wings is the outstandingly mediocre Kamala Harris. And we can be comforted that the President’s mental state is already such that there is no fear of further damage from “long” Covid-19 cognitive impairment.

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