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Vaccines, not the magic bullet the advertisers claim

Israel is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, but having dropped restrictions, they are picking them up again only one month later as the Delta variant spreads.

In Tel Aviv, 75 students got infected at one party from a vaccinated person who had caught the virus from another vaccinated person. And though the UK data is better than the Israeli data, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has had both of her vaccine doses but still has to self isolate for two weeks due to a “near exposure”. How confident are the UK health experts? Not very. With the UK only weeks away from the so-called Freedom day, will double vaxed people have to self isolate for two weeks each time they are exposed?

This belies the key point about “getting vaxed for the nation”. If being vaccinated is about keeping you out of hospital, not so much about infecting your friends, then getting vaxed is more for self protection. The cost-benefit equation might look good for high risk people, but changes dramatically for healthy young people. We need to know how much vaccination slows transmission yet it’s barely a part of the national conversation.

A month is a long time in pandemic world

Coronavirus-vaccine. Photo

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

In May the Pfizer vaccine was working respectably well against Covid cases in Israel, and the government relaxed the rules. Then the Delta strain arrived with plodding predictability, and suddenly the efficacy against infection fell from 94% to 63%. (Though the numbers are small).

Like every other country it arrived in, the Delta variant (formerly known as the Indian double-mutant) rapidly outpaced the other variants, and is now responsible for 9 out of 10 cases of Covid in Israel.

On the plus side, the Pfizer vaccine was 98% effective against being hospitalized by the UK Alpha strain, and it’s still 93% effective against the Delta strain. On the down side, the next mutants are coming. They might be nicer, but they might not.

The scandalous risks with leaky vaccines

With vaccines that are this leaky, we’re running the risk of creating nastier variants through a process called “immune escape”. That’s the selection path that converted a 1% chicken killer called Marek’s disease into a 100% killer. It took decades to do that, but it’s not a road we want to travel. The post I wrote on the danger of leaky vaccines was one of the most important on this site (in case you missed it).  If you know where to look, you’ll find experts often talk in medical code about “immune escape” but rarely spell out how bad this could be.

The solution is so obvious we already did it years ago: use antivirals.

Antivirals are the antibiotics of the viral world. When we couldn’t find a vaccine for AIDS, we used a cocktail of antivirals. We’ve already got a suite of candidates against Covid: like Ivermectin, HCQ, EXO-CD24, Bromhexine (cough syrup), Budesonide (used against asthma). Not to mention all the vitamins and minerals that might give us a boost too like Vitamin D, C, B6, B12, etc, etc.

If we want to stop lockdowns, we need to get antivirals approved and stop the new mutants coming in until we do. Unlike leaky vaccines, antivirals should also prevent the development of nastier mutants.

Do antivirals stop most vaccinees catching and leaking the virus? Why the heck don’t we know that already? Looks like someone is afraid the trials will show the antivirals work so well we don’t need vaccines.

h/t Serp, Raving, Ian. Dave B.

So much for the mass speedy vaccination in Israel

Officials to weigh reimposing some virus restrictions as Delta variant spreads

The Times of Israel, July 3, 2021

75 pupils contract COVID-19 from a vaccinated person at school party in Tel Aviv; former Health Ministry deputy director calls to bring back ‘Green Pass’ system

This week, at least 75 high school pupils were confirmed to have contracted the virus at a Tel Aviv end-of-year party, after a student was infected by a vaccinated relative. That relative contracted the virus from another vaccinated individual who had recently returned from London, according to Channel 13 news.

Unfortunately Times of Israel was slightly ambiguous. Was the superspreader at the party vaccinated, or were they a student who was infected by a vaccinated person a day or two earlier? This matters. Can vaccinated people still be superspreaders? We need to know!

A whole vaccination campaign that bought four weeks of freedom?

The Times of Israel, July 3, 2021

Former Health Ministry deputy director-general Itamar Grotto said the country should consider returning to the “Green Pass” system that differentiates between vaccinated and non-vaccinated citizens regarding access to certain venues and activities.

The Health Ministry expects daily coronavirus diagnoses to jump to 500-600 next week, according to media reports Wednesday.

According to the ministry, over 5.62 million people — out of Israel’s population of more than 9.3 million — have gotten at least one vaccine shot. Of those, close to 5.2 million received a second dose.

We’re in an arms race with an inanimate chemical code

Coronavirus structure

Image: Scientific Animations

The UK has a lot more data than Israel, and in the UK Pfizer has only fallen from 90 to 80% efficacy at stopping symptomatic infection. The UK data is probably much closer to the truth than Israel’s is, but the point that matters is the trend. With each mutation we can expect the vaccines to get less effective. We’re in an arms race with an inanimate chemical code that is running experiments currently in 11 million bodies (plus cats, ferrets, mink and any other mammal it can infect). Will we ever catch up? Each new vaccine still needs time to be developed and tested. Even in the experimental mRNA vaccines, where substituting snippets of code can be done faster, there is still a need to test to make sure the antibody response does not trigger an autoimmune disease, or accelerate the next infection, or send the body off making less effective antibodies.

How long does vaccine protection last …?

Why is Israel as low as 63%? As usual in biology, there are many possibilities: the people may have different genes, diets, deficiencies, past infections, and it may be a different age group infected. The vaccines were given six months ago to some people in Israel. One expert in Israel wonders if they are already starting to wear off?

Israel was one of the fastest countries to vaccinate, with 60% of the population had already had one dose by the end of March. And 80% of adults having 2 doses now.  Note that 80% of adults is not 80% of the population. The OWID data suggests hardly any vaccines have been given in Israel in the last two months. Hmm. That’s another question. Why — we wonder did vaccinations hit “a wall”?

For the record, Israel used the Pfizer vaccine initially, as well as  Astra Zenica and Moderna.

If two rounds don’t work, let’s do three?

The former Israeli Prime Minister wants to rush in the third round of booster shots:

Netanyahu said in a video released on his social media channels that “from conversations I’ve had with some of the best experts in the world, I believe the third vaccine [dose] should be given to the over-50 population starting in August, in order to finish the task by the end of September.”

He said that no one currently knows when a drop in immunity will leave the population susceptible to infection once again.

If any lives actually mattered to our health authorities they’d be reassessing the antivirals and giving people and their doctors the choice of medications instead of pushing and pumping only one solution in a non-stop advertising campaign.


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