I’m reposting a piece I wrote in April, just one month into the nitty gritty meat of our pandemic.
We were viral virgins then. Information slammed us fast and furious with its floundering inconsistencies. Everything we read and heard was a disarrayed torrent of claims, conjectures, fears, paranoias, and whole lot of bullshit. It’s understandable that in such an environment where we are “invaded” by a novel virus such as SARS-2, the unknowns are great, and people, being who they are, fill the voids in their knowledge with “facts” in the hopes of assuaging fear and exerting some control of the chaos, however elusive.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Right’s favorite pandemic whipping boy, did not help his credibility with his shoddy communiques and ambiguous articulation in times of ignorance and chaos. His renowned mask debacle in March hampered the reliability of his message, and that of all other medical experts at the onset of the pandemic. I somewhat comprehended the nuance of his mask message in between those medical lines which were as legible as a doctor’s handwriting, but I was not surprised when the American public didn’t.
Another phrase we heard batted around authoritatively then was “herd immunity.” The far Right’s anti-mask, “it’s only the flu, bro” brigade latched onto this concept as a prospective Trump-friendly pandemic strategy with furious possessiveness as justification for handling the virus in the best capitalist, open-it-up, anti-lockdown manner possible. The anti-mask Right embraced herd immunity as the default anti-pandemic weapon of choice (if their ruthless scorched earth strategy reigned). I did the math, plugging the numbers in needed to achieve herd immunity, as theorized at the time, and it was obvious, lacking the vaccination route to herd immunity in March or April, this would never see the light of day.
I crunched the numbers as I saw it with my layman’s knowledge. At the time a 90% infection rate was the generally accepted path to herd immunity. That is, before the medical authorities (including Fauci) started to walk it back and the threshold sank to a more hopeful and less lethal 50% or 60%, even 40% by some accounts.
Printed in its edited entirety is a piece I wrote for a previous blog.
April 27, 2020
Does anyone who pays attention sincerely believe the United States (or any other country in the developed world) would allow herd immunity to evolve with COVID-19?
You are a lunatic if you insist herd immunity be pursued. (At least the natural, infection-dispersal type of herd immunity, not the type bestowed by vaccines, which incidentally, I’m not expecting to see any time soon for this virus).
Herd immunity would require that about 300,000,000 Americans be infected with COVID-19, and that once everybody dies or recovers, the immunity afforded by COVID-19 antibodies will allow the country to become a COVID-free zone since we would all be immune. The community is now collectively resistant to infection.
Whoopee. Let’s go to the beach!
There are several key presumptions to the scenario that need to be consciously ignored for such a scheme to work, on paper at least.
Firstly, that whole immunity thing.
Politicians and other anointed authorities boldly make plans for a brave new world as if immunity is a given. It is not. I have yet to see one conclusive report where scientists have demonstrated that those who recover from COVID enjoy any immunity whatsoever. In fact, some reports from South Korea speculate that there may be no immunity, or very limited immunity, as some re-infections have been observed. COVID-19 is an RNA virus, meaning that it can mutate swiftly and frequently; and this has also been observed by medical researchers. Viruses generally do not mutate into deadlier forms (this is seen only in movies and books) but they do mutate as they make their way through populations, so chances of immunity, or one vaccine, are diminished. Ever wonder why they need to change up the flu vaccine every year?
Secondly, I don’t expect any politician worth his party’s bountiful monetary investment to touch the idea of herd immunity with a 10-foot pole. This would be spectacularly unpopular. Of those 300,000,000 infected Americans, let’s estimate conservatively that 2,000,000 of them die. That’s blood on your hands Mr. or Mrs. Theoretical President. That crimson tinge is going to be difficult to scrub off by Election Day. You are tarnished with death and fickle Americans will hold you accountable. Not outright, but in their little anxious heads when they go to the voting booth.
So we find ourselves here.
Hamstrung by political epidemiology which seeks to reduce numbers (numbers are bad psychologically for PR) at the expense of freedom and fun-loving weekend diversions. We are ordered to alter our behaviors as part of an overall strategy whose goal is the antithesis to herd immunity. Our government seeks to minimize infection cases, thus deaths, at all costs. Lockdowns are a political maneuver that seek to smooth out the short-term demands of re-election. I could single out President Trump but that would be disingenuous, for any other President would be doing the same thing (don’t forget, Dr. Fauci has that Deep State-ian pervasiveness and he’s worked for previous Presidents of both Parties).
Trump is doing what King Obama would do, what Bush 1 or 2 would do, even what Bill Clinton would do. Political imperatives leave very little room for trailblazing Presidential behavior.
Those words I wrote in April, “so we find ourselves here,” have proven timeless. They should be the motto for 2020.
It’s almost 2021 now. And. So we find ourselves here as Dr. Fauci once again shifts the goal posts thus denigrating our trust in his reliability.
The miracle vaccine elixir, rushed to market, exploits Fauci’s alleged ties to the pharmaceutical industry (I won’t play arbiter of those accusations, but a simple internet search will turn up reams of pages backing up and refuting them) and he now parrots a ramped up herd immunity figure (90%). It’s the very one he minimized a few months ago. His justifications are typically shaky.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, said that herd immunity in the U.S. could be reached if up to 90 percent of Americans receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking to The New York Times on Thursday, Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But I’m not going to say 90 percent.”
He added, “We need to have some humility here.”
It’s a little late in the pandemic game for humility. If Americans possessed a fraction of the humility Fauci presents, we wouldn’t be in this boat. Alas, Americans do what they need to do, hell with altruism and sacrifice or collective goodwill. The pandemic’s American tragedy does not belong to Trump nor the Republicans. It doesn’t belong to any political group – the people to blame are the hedonistic, consumerist sheep that populate this country.
We couldn’t do without, so now we find ourselves here, doing without.
As the Times noted, Fauci previously said that “70, 75 percent” of the population would need to be vaccinated for the U.S. to attain herd immunity, but last week he suggested a higher percentage was needed.
“If you really want true herd immunity, where you get a blanket of protection over the country…you want about 75 to 85 percent of the country to get vaccinated,” Fauci told Vox’s Today, Explained podcast on December 15. “I would say even closer to 85 percent.”
Fauci smells the blood pustules that bubble up when the syringe is retracted from our arms.
Asked why he has increased the vaccine percentage needed to reach herd immunity, Fauci told the Times, “When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, I can nudge this up a bit, so I went to 80, 85.”
Well played, Tony!
The obsequious rush by people eager to take their jab was psychologically ordained and predictable. If the vaccine is all that stands between us and shopping and the beach, our self-preservation becomes less weighty, and vaccination a conformist vehicle carrying us toward precious normality. If 50% of us were willing to be vaccinated before the vaccines were rolled out, any armchair psychologist would predict the number would rise to 60, 70, or more, as images and vaccinated virtue signaling began to filter into the collective dialog. Lo and behold, theorized herd immunity measures rose in concordance as health “experts” raised the vaccination bar.
One wonders if herd immunity and herd behavior are truly divergent.