For the past few months, the Netherlands has had a big wave of BA.1 Omicron, that has caused a lot of people to get infected. The number of deaths and hospitalizations was very low however. The government had implemented a complete lockdown, but it won’t shock you to hear that this had no real impact on the wave.
So what led to the low death and hospitalization rates then? This is quite simple: The elderly had received boosters. The boosters offer some protection against infection and because the elderly mostly mingle with other elderly, that’s sufficient to keep infection rates low. You can see the infection rates here:
I marked the height of the big BA.1 wave in the Netherlands here. Different age groups were infected at different rates. Depending on your definition, young adults were anywhere from 4 to 10 times more likely to get infected than the elderly, whereas during the previous winter, the elderly were actually more likely to get infected than the young.
In other words, if you would look at the total number of cases and compare this to the number of hospitalizations and deaths, you would be under the impression that Omicron must be a very mild variant. But if the elderly had been getting infected at the same rate as young adults, we would have seen record hospitalizations and deaths. We didn’t see these record hospitalizations and deaths, because the Dutch government used a lockdown in combination with a booster campaign to reduce infections among the elderly.
Unfortunately however, constantly injecting people with an old version of the Wuhan spike protein to protect them against new variants is a poor bargain. Here’s what happens:
- You vaccinate people and now they are at increased risk of infection for 2 weeks, or 1 week after the booster. These infections are counted as belonging in the previous category. The infections from the first shot (these are massive) are counted as happening in the unvaccinated, those in the weeks after the second shot are treated as happening in those who received one shot etc. This toying with the definitions always improves the apparent efficacy of these vaccines.
- After these weeks, you see a few months of protection against infection. Whenever you organize another mass vaccination round for high risk elderly, you thus drive SARS-COV-2 related hospitalizations and deaths down. Protection against infection is far from perfect, but the elderly mostly interact with other elderly, so case rates can decline by a lot, even with modest individual protection.
- After a few months, protection now begins to fade and you start seeing increased reports of breakthrough infections. Risk of infection for those with a waned immune response is actually higher than for the unvaccinated.
- After antibody levels have sufficiently waned, the elderly are now at increased risk of a severe infection, due to the decreased breadth of the immune response. With every additional shot, the immune system becomes increasingly more focused on the Wuhan spike protein, to the detriment of its ability to respond to other variants.
- Governments get very worried and decide to give all the elderly another shot, expecting this will buy them another couple of months.
And that’s for example, why you saw a pattern of deaths in Israel that’s very different from most Western nations:
Once Israel was hit by Omicron they were already in the stage where the effect of the third shot had started to wane. And thus all these people who had received three shots had to deal with this infection with an antibody response characterized by a decreased ability to adjust to new variants, like Omicron. The Israeli government responded by giving the elderly a fourth shot, which kicks the can down the hall for another few months.
Meanwhile, Israel is unique among the world’s nations, in the degree to which Omicron begins to evolve to overcome the vaccine induced immune response. There’s a variant now showing up in high rates in Israel, that’s not really showing up anywhere else, BA.2 with 346K. This is a variant we would expect to have an extremely strong ability to escape the Wuhan spike antibody response, much greater than anything we’ve seen before.
I can’t sufficiently emphasize, how stupid it is to constantly vaccinate people with the exact same Spike protein. It’s asking for a disaster. The evidence should be very clear from Israel, where deaths from the supposedly much milder Omicron variant exceeded deaths from the Delta wave.
The Netherlands is now planning the fourth round of injection with the Wuhan spike protein, so now we’re going to see two things:
- A number of boosted people have finally had enough of these vaccines and the associated side-effects, so their immune response will wane and they will be at high risk of a severe BA.2 infection in the months ahead.
- A number of people will go along with the fourth shot, buying them a couple more months of protection against BA.2, at the cost of severe side-effects and the inevitable waning of the immune response, leading to an inevitable next wave of infections once the fourth shot wanes.
We have actually seen something similar to what we’re now witnessing with SARS-COV-2, the failed Dengvaxia experiment in the Philippines, where children died after receiving an experimental vaccine against Dengue.
They gave a bunch of kids a vaccine against Dengue, then the kids who had no exposure to Dengue before receiving the vaccine began dying.
Let’s look at the numbers. A total 0f 800,000 children were vaccinated beginning in april 2016 and lasting until the end of 2017. Out of these children, 100,000 had no previous exposure to Dengue and thus suffered original antigenic sin imprinting, prohibiting them from generating a proper immune response against other variants of Dengue. This problem was only discovered in November 2017.
The program was stopped in December 2017, 12 deaths from Dengue were confirmed in these children. By September 2018, they were looking at 19 dengue deaths.
By June 2021, the 165th victim whose death could be linked to the vaccine was recorded.
So, if we just take the Dengvaxia experiment at face value, the deaths become apparent about one and a half year after the program starts. Then it takes about another year, before deaths genuinely begin to start piling up. If you want to dive into the details, there’s a model here that you can look at.
This is effectively giving you a glimpse at what you should expect in the coming years. Experiments like the one we have engaged in against SARS-COV-2 take some time to reveal their impact.
Of course what we did is much worse than the Dengvaxia experiment. We have engaged in a global mass vaccination experiment, which changes the evolutionary dynamics of this virus to a degree that SARS-COV-2 becomes forced to genetically adapt to this newly created niche. In that sense, there is no proper equivalent.
We can see some dynamics similar to those of homogenization of the immune response from mass vaccination in this study on the impact of viral adaptation to specific MHC genotypes in inbred mice. Virulence becomes much higher in mice with common MHC genotypes to which the virus has adapted than to rare MHC genotypes.
It’s not very hard to see what’s happening, I’ll divide it into a couple of different points:
-Neutralizing antibodies against SARS-COV-2 make it harder for someone to get infected and for them to pass on the infection.
-Versions of SARS-COV-2 that mutated to overcome our neutralizing antibodies are thus going to have a transmission advantage.
-The ideal transmission advantage would be seen if all of your neutralizing antibodies became useless.
-Your neutralizing antibodies don’t just obstruct viral transmission from one person to another, they also make the difference between a nasty cold and a life-threatening infection.
-It’s not possible for this virus to overcome all of our neutralizing antibodies, if everyone has different neutralizing antibodies, due to infections from different variants and naturally increasing breadth after infection thanks to somatic hypermutation of your B cells.
-It’s only possible for a variant to come into existence that overcomes all neutralizing antibodies, when everyone has a very similar pallet of neutralizing antibodies.
-By vaccinating everyone multiple times with the exact same Wuhan spike protein, we create a situation where everyone has very similar antibodies against this virus.
-This process of mass vaccination enables a variant to come into existence that overcomes all of our neutralizing antibodies.
-Such a variant would be both highly transmissible and highly lethal.
-We’re now in a situation where just two out of 19 monoclonal antibody therapies work against the new dominant variant, BA.2. Your own vaccine induced antibody response will similarly face massive antibody evasion from BA.2 and we should thus expect that we’re quite close to witnessing the emergence of a variant that is going to cause a mass wave of infections, severe illness and death.
Here you can see infection rates in Dutch elderly:
It should be obvious that this mass wave of infections is going to have consequences in the form of more hospitalizations and it should be obvious that with the waning boosters and the current wave of BA.2 subvariants, the infection rates in the elderly are going to get worse in the weeks ahead.
Infection rates in Dutch elderly are now five times higher than the previous winter’s peak. Unless you expect that natural immunity, vaccine induced immunity and the hypothesized mildness of Omicron will somehow reduce the risk of hospitalization per individual infection by 80% or more, hospitalizations will exceed what we saw last winter.
It could of course be that I’m missing something, that some deus ex machina will now show up to avoid mass hospitalization and death, but I honestly can’t think of something. If you think there’s some silver lining I’m missing, be sure to let me know in the comments.