Points Of Controversy

Provocative Questions: Wet Blankets & Ultra-Blind Vaccine Studies

Do these activists strike you as the type of people who waited in line all day to volunteer for a trial vaccine study?  Photo by Ellen Schmidt of Las Vegas Review-Journal


Preliminary COVID-19 vaccine trials have yielded incredible initial results.  We are being told that the vaccines are 90%+ effective so far in these trials.

The effectiveness of the common flu vaccine is much lower.

Unless I’ve missed something, while these results are scientifically possible, we are not hearing too much in terms of possible bias in the studies.

The roughly 50% of the American population that is hesitant or unwilling to receive the COVID-19 vaccine most likely shares a giant overlap with the portion of the population that is generally against any and all precautionary measures.

That segment of the population will almost certainly expose themselves to higher levels of COVID-19 doses/loads, more often.

The problem here, if I’m not mistaken, is that higher infective doses can overwhelm vaccine protection.

“…in 2006, a large outbreak [of mumps] occurred among highly vaccinated populations in the United States, and similar outbreaks have been reported worldwide. The outbreak described in this report occurred among U.S. Orthodox Jewish communities during 2009 and 2010… Transmission was focused within Jewish schools for boys, where students spend many hours daily in intense, face-to-face interaction… Conclusions: The epidemiologic features of this outbreak suggest that intense exposures, particularly among boys in schools, facilitated transmission and overcame vaccine-induced protection in these patients.

That is to say, when those dogmatic individuals are likely excluded, voluntarily, from the COVID-19 vaccine studies, is the COVID-19 virus really getting a fair chance?

Is this really a fair fight?

Or, are these preliminary results nothing more than a demonstration of a good vaccine matched up against a tamed, muzzled COVID-19 virus with the kid-gloves on?  (Imagine the typical vaccine study volunteer.  Can you really visualize this volunteer casually attending “super-spreader” events?  Or, more likely, would you visualize him washing his hands, social distancing, and generally being paranoid and reducing possible infective doses all day long?)

Or perhaps said differently, might the flu vaccine be 98% effective if it were only administered to people who washed their hands all day long, wore a mask while in public, engaged in social distancing, and just generally engaged in preventative measures that reduced the frequency and volume of infective doses/loads? And yet, as it pertains to the common flu, people never lived their lives that way.

A double-blind study means that, initially, both the subjects and the researchers do not know which subjects received the placebo and which received the test vaccine.

For a real-world test, yielding real-world expected results, would we not need an (highly unethical) “ultra-blind” test, where subjects not only don’t know whether they received a vaccine or a placebo, but additionally, they also don’t know that they’re even in the study and that they’ve been given something?

Anti-Mask protest in Madrid.  Attribution unknown.


Systemic Risk

With the holidays fast approaching, experts are predicting one of the harshest periods yet with respect to COVID-19.  This is probably all the more likely now that there are reports and rumors of vaccines that will probably be viable and probably be available, in the future.  With this new information, people’s defense shields, on the whole, are probably lowering as the holiday season approaches, and this may re-illustrate, or unfortunately illustrate definitively, why COVID-19 is different than the common flu.

It’s not exactly rocket science.  The most dangerous difference between COVID-19 and the common flu is COVID-19 has a far greater potential to jam up the health care system – specifically, our hospitals.

Since a vaccine would obviously reduce infections, we can strip out the issue of vaccination altogether, and simply look at what percentage of people need hospitalization after infection.

For the flu, apparently the rate is 1.05% for the previous season.

For COVID-19, on the other hand, we have seen rates ranging from 6.6% to 20%.  (It’s not even clear if the staggering 9% hospital re-admission rate for COVID-19 is factored into the above calculations.)

Again, this is once you are infected, so a vaccine makes no difference at that point.

COVID-19 puts more infected people in the hospital.  Too many people in the hospital and the system breaks.

The 2020 holidays haven’t even started, and we are already approaching a breaking point.

Finally, although risk to the entire system obviously implies risk to the individual, even a partial stress to the system carries significant additional risk to the individual – due to the highly unpublicized reality that hospitals are already imperfect to begin with – even in the best of times.

This is certainly very real – you do not want to be hospitalized, for any reason, with a hundred other patients who have COVID-19, plus any number of non-COVID-19 patients, plus a staff that’s operating under Apocalypse Now conditions.