Coronavirus: Variants, vaccines, and boosters, oh my!

The CDC says the vaccine is only good for 3 months of exemption from quarantine, booster shots every year are all the rage even with that limited impact, variants are about to cause another wave, and the tentative end date for the pandemic is a year away.  Are we really talking 730 days to slow the spread?

We’re rapidly approaching 365 days to slow the spread, likely looking at many more.  Forget social distancing and masking for a moment:  If you would’ve told me that travel to Europe would be banned for more than a full year last February, I would have said you lost your mind, not possible, no way that could happen in the modern world.  The proximate cause of all this craziness, of course, is coronavirus, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to see some other agenda at work.

For example, if you thought the vaccine was your ticket back to a normal life and the return of our basic freedoms, it appears you were sadly mistaken.  The good Dr. Anthony Fauci, apparently, has other plans.  “So there are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society: for example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate. That’s because of the safety of society. You, yourself, what you can do when you are together with another person, we are looking at that, and we’re going to try and find out very quickly what recommendations could be made about what people can do.”

Read that again and see if it makes any sense to you:  Even after you’ve had the vaccine, you can’t go out to dinner, they’re looking to see if you can even be in the same room with another person, but, don’t worry, they’ll let you know what you can do soon.  It’s enough to make you wonder if even the experts have any idea what the vaccine actually does.

Last March, however, the experts were saying something different.  When 15-days to slow the spread turned into 45 days, Dr. Birx said, “There’s no magic bullet, there’s no magic vaccine or therapy, it’s just behaviors.  Each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days.”  Dr. Fauci added, “This is tough. People are suffering, people are dying. It’s inconvenient from a societal standpoint, from an economic standpoint, to go through this, but this is going to be the answer to our problems.”

Of course, it wasn’t the answer to any of our problems.  The death toll is now over 500,000, even after the lockdowns, continued restrictions, mask wearing, etc.  The difference 10 months later is that we finally have a magic bullet:  The vaccine, actually three of them in short order, but, apparently, the only benefit you receive from getting the vaccine is an exemption from quarantine if you’ve been in contact with a positive patient.

Yet, even this minor benefit comes with restrictions and a short shelf life.  According to the CDC, “vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria:  Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine); Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series; Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure.”

Three months of reprieve from quarantine?  That’s what they’re selling?

Otherwise, “vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing.”

With that in mind, are we allowed to ask the point? Because I’m having a hard time following it: We’ve already administered 65.03 million doses of the vaccine as of February 23.  We’re spending billions upon billions to accomplish the monstrous task of vaccinating everyone in the country, if not the world, but they’re going to get back to us at some indefinite time in the future to let us know if it was worth it?  Shouldn’t we have known that before we started vaccinating at scale?

It’s not like there aren’t any alternatives to vaccinating everyone in the whole country on a lark, literally hoping it stops the spread.  As of February 17, the CDC had reported 460,234 deaths involving COVID-19.  Of those,  373,428 are for individuals 65 and over, 81.3%.  By comparison, there have only been 3,710 deaths of individuals under age 35.  If all the vaccine does is decrease the chance of death and serious illness, why are we wasting our time vaccinating those that don’t die or get seriously ill?

To put this in perspective, there are 54 million people over age 65 in the United States, meaning we could have vaccinated all of them at this point with at least the first dose.  Why not pursue that strategy until we have more data on what prevents the spread?  If people stop dying, who cares if it spreads?  Our bodies are petri dishes of virus and bacteria anyway, so long as it’s not harmful, what’s the difference?

The result is no agreed upon endpoint in sight.  A recent article in The Atlantic serves as a case in point.  The Most Likely Timeline for Life to Return to Normal:  An uncertain spring, an amazing summer, a cautious fall and winter, and then, finally relief,” by staff writer Joe Pinsker.  I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Pinsker, but next spring, more than six months after the entire country has been vaccinated, is really the best we can do, 730 days to slow the spread?

Mr. Pinsker begins by stating the obvious, “The end of the coronavirus pandemic is on the horizon at last, but the timeline for actually getting there feels like it shifts daily, with updates about viral variants, vaccine logistics, and other important variables seeming to push back the finish line or scoot it forward.”

He proceeds to sum up what the experts are saying about the upcoming seasons, and not all of it is pretty.

Spring will be “far from normal,” or perhaps even worse as “experts fear that the pandemic could get much worse in the near term, because variants of the virus that are more contagious or vaccine-resistant.”  In fact, his colleague, Robinson Meyer, said “March to May is the mystery.”  One wonders how that could be possible:  Haven’t the experts been pushing all sorts of models that claim to predict the future for almost a full year now, but all of a sudden the crystal ball is broken right when we have a vaccine?

The case positivity rate is also under the magic 5% number after an explosion of cases in late December and early January.  What’s the mystery?

Ashish Jha, the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, is a little more optimistic, at least when it comes to the properly vaccinated.  “As we get into late spring, a lot of that stuff—the smaller gatherings of vaccinated people—I think starts becoming quite possible,” Jha said.  He is not the only one optimistic when it comes to summer.  Another writer at The Atlantic said, “In most of the U.S., the summer could feel…‘normal,’” even “revelatory.”  Some experts seem to agree,  “Barring some variant that is just really crazy, I expect the summer to be a lot like the summer of 2019,” Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, told Mr. Pinsker, noting it could even be as soon as May.

Unfortunately, the summer isn’t the end of the story, at least according to the experts.  We might be heading to another dark fall and winter, 2021 to 2022.  According to Mr. Pinsker, “Even if the summer feels like the end of the pandemic, it could turn out to be more of a temporary reprieve.”  He then presents two scenarios.

The more positive scenario is that we arrive at the tail end of the current pandemic.  “It won’t be as bad as this winter, but I don’t know if it’s going to be pretty bad or [if] just a few people will get it,” Noymer said.  While this would be the welcome scenario, something about the phrasing leaves a little to be desired:  What is our goal now, mitigation and back to normal as quickly as possible, or “just a few people” (or perhaps zero people) get it?  That’s definitely a distinction with a massive difference:  It’s quite possible the virus might never, ever go away.

If that’s the case, there will be no end point, ever, even with a vaccine.  It will become just like the flu.  Fortunately or perhaps unfortunately would be a better term, that is one of the possibilities currently being pushed.  How do we know this?  According to NBC News earlier this month, “Will your yearly physical include a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot? Probably, experts said Wednesday.”  “I think a big question on this coronavirus is, is it something that we’re gonna have forever,” explained Dr. Richard Besser, a former acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This virus is showing an incredible ability to mutate, to change, to adapt, in a sense, to everything we’re putting against it.”

Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine is likely to be approved tomorrow, agrees.  “Unfortunately, as (the virus) spreads, it can also mutate,” said CEO Alex Gorsky. “Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine.”

Dr. Gorsky didn’t indicate how much money his company would stand to make selling hundreds of millions of booster shots per year, but if you step back and look at the totality of their statements, it’s clear the establishment, meaning government, big pharma, big tech, and mainstream media, are all in on a permanent pandemic.

Much of the concern about permanence stem from the emergence of new strains.  This leads us to the second of the two scenarios.  According to The Atlantic again, “Whether because a variant ends up evading existing vaccines or because infections surge among unvaccinated people, cases might climb again. Even after a wonderful summer, a rise in cases could necessitate a reversion to many of the precautions from earlier in the pandemic, even if it doesn’t require full-on lockdowns.”  Noymer describes it colorfully, “I’m not saying that the return of the masks and working from home and all the crap that we hate is guaranteed.  But if it does return, it won’t be in the summer. It’ll be in the fall.”

CNN is already out in front, citing experts concerned about an additional wave, sure to crest any day now, from the “highly contagious B1.1.7 variant.”  “It could result in more of a wave in, say, April or May than we would have expected otherwise,” explains Trevor Bedford of the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Predictably, the way to control additional waves is to double down on the very things that haven’t prevented any waves so far.  “The predicted surge is why many experts highlight the need to double down on safety measures such as face masks, social distancing and avoiding crowded areas. Helping to lower cases will also reduce the virus’ chance to spread more and mutate, experts have said.”

Ultimately, this is where the American public needs to step in and yell, stop, enough already, hopefully with some color of their own.  We cannot possibly continue in a perpetual state of looming lockdowns and constant vaccinations, indefinitely, where any moment, any day you might be barred from work or school.  Viruses spread and mutate into different strains, that’s what they’ve been doing for millions of years and what they will continue to do for millions more.

For thousands of years, humanity has dealt with the fall out and carried on. We cannot stop the clock for every new variant or we will never get back to normal, ever.  Call me cynical, but it almost seems like that’s the plan:  There’s no mistaking the sad truth that some are benefiting from the radical changes to our lives over the past year and they don’t seem willing to turn back the clock.  I truly hope that’s not the case, but only the American people can put a stop to it and demand our rights back. The experts and the establishment do not seem likely to relent.

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