The big vaccine paradox that everyone seems to miss

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Imagine the following scenario: Scientists develop a vaccine against a virus, test it and find that it reduces risk of hospitalization from infection by 75%. And yet, despite no change to the virus itself, the vaccine ended up dramatically increasing the number of hospitalizations, even though the 75% protection against hospitalization stood fast as a rock. How could such a thing happen?

Well imagine for a moment that the vaccine increases your risk of infection by 30%, because the sort of immune response it provokes in your body is similar to that in anyone else who receives the vaccine. This is the sort of risk that wouldn’t show up during clinical trials, as only a handful of people would have a similar immune response to you. For you as an individual to take this vaccine would now mean your risk of hospitalization from the virus has reduced by 67.5%, rather than 75%, as you have to account for the increased risk of catching the virus to begin with.

But now imagine you live in a relatively isolated society of a hundred million people. All hundred million citizens have received the vaccine. A hundred tourists show up in the country, bringing the virus with them before all travel is shut down. The average tourist exposed nine people to this virus. The average exposed person has a 10% chance of catching it upon exposure.

In the absence of the vaccine, we would see the following pattern:

1st generation: 100 cases

2nd generation 90 cases

3rd generation 81 cases

4th generation 73 cases

5th generation 66 cases

6th generation 59 cases

7th generation 53 cases

8th generation 43 cases.

In total after the 8th generation you would have had 586 cases (excluding the original tourists). After forty or so generations you’d reach the point where one person fails to infect anyone and the outbreak dies out.

Now imagine in our world, we increased the individual exposed person’s risk of catching it by 30%. Instead of every tourist infecting 0.9 people on average, they would infect 1.17 people on average.

What happens now is that after ten generations you would have 2620 cases in total among citizens of the country.

If the first scenario had a 10% risk of hospitalization, reduced to a 2.5% risk of hospitalization through vaccination in the second scenario, the prior scenario would lead to 58 hospitalizations, whereas the latter would lead to 65. And so although everyone individually managed to reduce their own personal risk by embracing the vaccine, after the tenth generation the vaccination campaign would have led to more hospital admissions. With a generation time of five days, your vaccine would have caused more hospital admissions within fifty days of the hundred tourists introducing the initial seed.

Why do I propose these numbers? Well, allow me to illustrate once more the problem we’re dealing with. The entire population has received vaccines that have long term negative efficacy against infection:

And my conviction is that the majority of people reading something like this, even people with Phd’s, will think to themselves: “Well it still works against hospitalization so I’m still better off because I got vaccinated” instead of thinking: “This is how you turn small waves that burn out on their own, into big waves that burn through the whole population.”

Does a 20 or 30% increased risk of infection really matter THAT much? The answer is that yes it does, if you realize the sort of numbers we’re toying with here.

We will say that Omicron has an r0 of 9 in a naive population. After an infection, your protection against reinfection is about 90%. These are both perfectly viable numbers, compatible with the literature. We will say 100% of the population has had an Omicron infection.

If a group of tourists were to show up who would reintroduce Omicron into the population, the r0 would now be 9 * 0.1 = 0.9. That is, any reintroduction of the virus into the population would infect a smaller group than the people who introduced it, who would in turn also infect a smaller group, leading to a small wave of infections.

Now we will say that after everyone lived through the first wave of this Omicron virus, a vaccine was administered that increased their risk of infection by 30%, as the Qatar study suggests is plausible in the long term. The r0 is now pushed up by 30%, from 0.9 to 1.17. Instead of naturally burning out before infecting the majority of the population, any reintroduction of the virus into the population would now lead to a growing wave, that ends up infecting everyone again.

If you completely take the studies at face value that claim vaccination reduces your individual risk of hospitalization by 80% or even 90%, that’s still not evidence that vaccinating everyone would reduce the total number of hospitalizations, because the nature of exponential growth means that slightly tweaking the r0 can make the difference between a tiny ~20% vaccinated Algerian Omicron BA.5 wave:

Or a sweet-baby-Jesus unprecedented 90% boosted Scottish wave of mass infection:

Note what we’re leaving out of the equation here: The obvious simple fact that we don’t want “mild” infections either. If you’re a true zero covid wokie, you shouldn’t be blindly swallowing the argument that it “still works to protect against severe disease”. If long term protection against reinfection is negative, the vaccine isn’t just bad: It’s an existential threat to mankind.

Personally, I’d be more than happy to concede that the vaccines may have reduced hospitalizations by a lot until late 2021. It’s a footnote compared to the total harm these vaccines will cause, if their long term impact on the population’s collective immunity proves to be negative.

This is the point I have painstakingly sought to make clear for over a year now. We can add all sorts of variables to our model to sink deeper into existential terror of course: Does a breakthrough infection in someone who already has been infected still help confer additional protection against the prospect of a third infection, or does it actually increase susceptibility? If you’re dealing with the latter scenario, which seems to be the case, then you can tip a population over into constant immunity depleting reinfections.

If you wish to give these vaccines to people, you would need to produce strong evidence that the long-term protection these vaccines give will continue to enhance whatever protection natural immunity incurs. If it happened to be the case for example that vaccinating a naturally immune person creates a “hybrid” form of immunity, of 70%, rather than 50% from vaccination alone or 90% from natural immunity, mass vaccination would easily be sufficient to mean the difference between herd immunity or constant waves of infection.

As me and Igor have documented many times by now, the evidence available strongly suggests it’s the mass vaccination campaign that prohibited the development of herd immunity.

Evolution tends to endow every organism with the bare minimum traits it needs for its survival. For similar reasons, it’s possible to imagine our species was endowed with the collective immunological capacity to barely develop herd immunity against the Betacoronaviruses now plaguing us. If through some means we interfere with natural processes that aim to achieve that height of Darwinian achievement, we create an existential threat for ourselves: We’re the descendants of the people who did NOT have Betacoronaviruses constantly reinfecting them.

You don’t need the sudden emergence of a completely vaccine-evasive ADE variant with a 10-fold increased fatality rate to end up with a Geert van den Bossche type catastrophe. If you are a little more patient, you could achieve it simply with a vaccine that results in hybrid immunity of 80% protection against reinfection, whereas natural immunity offered 90% protection against reinfection.

If such reinfections were to trigger a positive feedback loop of further reinfections due to associated immune damage, you’ve now got yourself dealing with an existential threat. And again, this would all be perfectly compatible with Uncle Bob dying in the ICU in September 2021 because he didn’t “follow the science”. You can’t properly judge the effect of a vaccine like this within a year of its release.

Truly understanding how to deal with a virus of this nature requires understanding how corona viruses and vertebrates like us have had to interact with each other for millions of years. If you don’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. That is what I aim on making my next post about.

15 Comments

  1. You may have underestimated the amazing healing power of natural immunity, even among highly vaccinated. Yes, highly vaccinated are getting infected at a much higher rate today (data from @TheEthicalSkeptic.) But infection rate among 2-dose fully vaccinated over 12 months ago is moving closer to match that of the unvaccinated. Many vaccinated also appear to start building natural immunity after infection. So not all is bleak. I could be wrong, but I would rather be an optimist at this time šŸ™‚

    • I’m not entirely convinced. If that signal also shows up specifically among young adults I’ll be more likely to believe it, but the problem is that the picture is distorted by the relatively small number of unvaccinated elderly left being in poorer health on average.

  2. Per the sewage data, the spike in the sewage covid level in the Palo Alto, CA region is staggering; it is the steepest spike since the start of the pandemic: https://covid19.sccgov.org/dashboard-wastewater (you have to click through to Palo Alto, but the nearby regions are nearly as bad). Taking the summer Omicron surge as the baseline, it is now at 118 percent that. It is true that most people around here have probably had more than two shots, so that doesn’t count one way or another for any purported healing in the twice-vaccinated.

    The shot is really popular here. I have only met two people besides me who haven’t taken it. One was a respectable looking lady in her 70s whom I chatted with in passing early on. She told me no way would she take it; she knew better since her dad had worked for Merck for his whole career. Then there is also a guy who used to volunteer with me who has really long hair and is missing most of his teeth (despite not being destitute; he is just perverse); I ran into him a few months ago when we were both rummaging through the recycling bins, and I we agreed only a moron would take it. So I guess I’ll have some company if I outlive the vaccinated for a few months.

    • Sounds to me like an internationally well connected place like Palo Alto may have stumbled on a new variant.

      I don’t know how people can look at this and think it’s normal. Things are starting to break down now.

      • This is what the California Dept. of Public Health says:

        “As of November 30, 2022, for the month of November, BA.2.75 (4.4%), BA.4.6 (2.6%), BF.7 (6.9%), BQ.1 (18.2%), BQ.1.1 (15.1%), and BA.5 (44.0%) sublineages make up the confirmed Omicron cases sequenced in California. However, there is a known delay in sequencing results being available; thus, CDPH models projections for the most recent weeks for which sequencing data are not yet available. Based on this, updated CDPH models estimate that 23.1% (17.7%-31.8%) of cases in California are currently BA.5. However, the proportion of BA.5 cases in the state are declining whereas proportion of BQ.1 (31.1% (24.3%ā€“46.6%)) and BQ.1.1 (30.7% (16.3%ā€“49.0%)) cases are increasing.”
        (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/COVID-Variants.aspx)

        That is for the whole state; of course it is a huge state (39 million people).

        So, there are new variants. It does not seem that having been infected by earlier variants (e.g. during the summer Omicron wave) keeps people from catching these new variants (no surprise). At least, not if a person has been vaccinated. Maybe unvaccinated people are safer, but who knows; there aren’t many of us.

        I know more people now who have covid, or had it recently, than at any other point in the pandemic. But it is treated as a nothing burger; people get it and then are back to work or whatever they do in a week or two. They don’t seem to be falling over dead. And these are not necessarily young people; some are in their late 60s.

        I’m sure there are a lot of people who are sick with covid who test but only a few times and so they are convinced it is something else since they get a negative; from what I read on reddit it can take a week after symptoms start to get a positive on an RAT, and people mostly don’t want to test daily for a week.

        I don’t see how this can be good for the immune systems of the people who are getting this (I just checked and now we are at 122 percent of the summer Omicron peak). But everything is open and everyone is acting like nothing is wrong. I have a feeling that the consequences of these infections will show up when these people catch something else.

        People do look terrible. Awful. Only really young people look okay, but even they look kind of off. And I do think that covid is acting like toxoplasmosis, in that people really want to get into your face to talk now more than ever; they are extra sociable; I think the virus is eating their brains and making them want to be around one another. Half the reason I wear an N95 is to keep them the fuck away from me.

  3. I’m actually surprised that re-infections aren’t a greater percentage, considering how more or less everyone will have been infected by now.

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