Profiteering and Covid – plus – what is the end-game?

Profiteering

The head of the Welcome Trust – an organisation with deep links to big pharma – has called for more vaccines to be purchased and given to developing countries so as to reduce the pool of unvaccinated in which mutations can occur. Gosh. He isn’t of course the only one to see the pandemic as a huge opportunity. Remember the ‘Threat – Opportunity’ matrix which all these revenue masters learn in primary school; of course they analyse the pandemic in terms of the market threats and opportunities. Why not? But all this is coated of course with warm words or, more accurately, false narratives.

Just to correct Sir Jeremy Farrar, (who incidentally was in on the secret call which Dr Fauci arranged to manage and do damage limitation on the first findings by scientists that the virus was manufactured in a lab [1]), current evidence is that most vaccines have very limited efficacy against mild infection and transmission. For example for AstraZeneca (with its “extremely rare” side-effects) after three months it seems to offer no more protection against transmission than not being vaccinated at all. Protection against transmission also drops for Pfizer. [2] Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca also lose efficacy against a “high viral load”* very rapidly. For example Pfizer efficacy against a “high viral load” drops from an initial 92% to 78% after 3 months. [3] Presumably this fall continues over the next 9 months. That is; these two leading vaccines both offer limited or very limited protection against mild infection and transmission.

Unless we get to a point then that everyone in the world is vaccinated or boosted every three months there will continue to be significant global transmission of the virus. Given the cost of the vaccines as well as logistics difficulties even in developed countries in giving every member of the population a dose every three months this is not realistic. The goal proposed by Sir Jeremy Farrar is not a realistic one. By all means let’s increase the distribution of vaccines in developing countries; it will reduce the number of deaths. But, realistically, the goal of reducing transmission to prevent evolution of the virus is a utopia. Sir Jeremy Farrar must understand this (or he is unqualified for his position).

What is not 100% clear to me from the Guardian article or Observer piece is whether Jeremy Farrar is calling for a) governments to buy more doses and then give them to low-income countries or b) for the vaccine manufacturers to simply provide more at cost to low-income countries. According to this Guardian article the UK government is buying the Pfizer Covid vaccine at £22.00 a dose (I think that is each of the 2 dose regime). Manufacturing cost according to the article £0.76. Pfizer has, according to the same article, given 2% of production to low-income countries. In his article for the Observer Jeremy Farrar writes: “Rich countries, who have the majority of existing supply, must share more doses over the coming months”. In this case this would appear to mean a); the UK should give some of the doses it has bought at a 28x mark-up and then presumably buy more (if he is talking about Pfizer). He also suggests governments increasing funding for a WHO scheme which aims to achieve equitable access to vaccines. In both cases it would appear that Jeremy Farrar is wringing his hands and imploring governments to give more money to pharmaceutical companies (or the WHO – who in turn spend some of the money buying vaccines from pharmaceutical companies) on a project which is very unlikely to achieve the goal of preventing future mutations. I don’t see him in this piece asking Pfizer to increase the share of its production which it makes available to low-income countries via the WHO scheme.

The end-game for the pandemic

The reality looks very much like: Sars-Cov-2 will continue to mutate and throw up new variants. Vaccines may need to be modified and we may get to a point where people will need to take cocktails of multiple vaccines. Vaccines will offer some protection but some vaccinated people will still get ill and die. Due to rapidly waning efficacy of vaccines and the realistic time period between vaccination (the absolute best it seems realistic to hope for in the developed world would be at 6 month intervals) as well as the fact that vaccines have quite limited efficacy against transmission, the virus will not be eliminated. Sars-Cov-2 and variations looks like being here to stay.

We can hope; a miracle may occur; the virus could mutate itself into causing a much, much, milder illness. But, in general, it looks like the situation is quite analogous to the flu virus. Multiple variations, changing each year; some protection from vaccines, but it will remain a killer of the elderly and infirm. The question then is; what restrictions are going to be put in place in the long-term? At the moment we have absurd panicky reactions to Omicron. But next it will be Pi. At some point ‘democratic’ governments will come under pressure (from business) to implement balanced long-term measures instead of these knee-jerk responses. They may even realise this themselves. Right now it looks like these restrictions will probably include: testing for international travel, limited quarantines after international travel, exclusion from participation in social life of the unvaccinated enforced with digital ‘Covid passes’ – and, in some countries, mandatory vaccination, together with requirements to self-isolate when positive (widely ignored for the obvious reason that billions of people around the world cannot afford to stop earning money for two weeks). To his credit, Sir Jeremy Farrar specifically calls for support to enable the less well-off to self-isolate when positive. (There is a limited scheme available in the UK but not enough it seems to persuade everyone).

All this is a classic example of how large corporations (pharma) and governments, both top-down ‘right-wing’ organisations in Illich’s sense, try to ‘deliver’ solutions. These solutions have certain characteristics; they are very expensive; they build in addiction and reuse of the product (repeated vaccinations); they involve coercion rather than voluntary consent; they ameliorate the problem they are trying to solve to sufficient extent to justify the measures but the cost to benefit ratio is huge (mirrored, of course, by the enormous profits made by those at the top).

The alternative, ‘left-wing’ model (in Illich’s sense) would be based on: accurate information dissemination (including about the risks and limited efficacy of the vaccines alongside the benefits) and voluntary actions by individuals to get vaccinated when medically appropriate (i.e. risk groups and those who do not have natural immunity), voluntary social-distancing in realistic ways and self-isolation when ill. The latter would require employers to act in a socially responsible way and give people paid time off to self-isolate. Now, of course, it is my turn to dream.

Notes

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3F2ZJGipiE https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/06/17/covid-19-fauci-lab-leaks-wuhan-china-origins/7737494002/ (Details of the meeting referred to in the audio have not been released. So much for democracy.)
  2. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/10/13/do-coronavirus-vaccines-prevent-transmission-of-the-virus [non-peer reviewed study] “Three months after having the AstraZeneca vaccine, those who had breakthrough infections were just as likely to spread the Delta variant as the unvaccinated.”
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02261-8 [I think this is the same study as 1.]

* I haven’t read the study but I know enough about how these studies are typically rigged by statistical manipulations to understand that what constitutes exactly a “high viral load” is quite likely to have been decided so as to produce the most favourable results for the vaccines.

Lab leak – analysis

I’m interested in Tucker Carlson’s view that the explanation for the willingness of the US democratic political class (and their lackeys by implication) to supress the lab leak theory is that they have already accepted that China (and thus the Chinese Communist Party) has eclipsed the US as the world’s leading power and they don’t want to upset their new masters. This chimes with my view that this is why the liberal-progressive Guardian and other liberal outlets are suppressing the lab leak theory; they don’t want to offend China which they understand is the new economic power which their system depends on.

(One error in this programme. They claim that Fauci is on record as saying that it was better to conduct dangerous research in China. Based on the content of Fauci’s quotes in the video extract they use they have not backed this up).

Science is not the same as Public Health – (and Dr Fauci does not ‘represent science’!)

The below is an extract from a Guardian article which is reporting on some remarks made by Dr Fauci to CBS. We can be fairly confident that he will not have been asked any challenging questions. Such as where did the virus come from.

–——————

On CBS, Fauci was also asked about Republican attacks over federal research prior to the pandemic and his role in the Trump administration.

“Anybody who’s looking at this carefully realizes that there’s a distinct anti-science flavor to this,” he said. “They’re really criticizing science because I represent science. That’s dangerous. To me, that’s more dangerous than the slings and the arrows that get thrown at me.”

Asked if he thought attacks were meant to scapegoat him and deflect attention from Donald Trump’s failures, Fauci said: “You have to be asleep not to figure that one out.”

“I’m just going to do my job and I’m going to be saving lives and they’re going to be lying,” he said.

—————–

Comments:

The coyly worded “federal research prior to the pandemic” is a (dishonest) journalistic cover for the funding of risky and controversial gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an unsafe, according to other US officials, research facility that was playing with the same type of viruses as have caused the pandemic- just a few Km from the epicentre of the pandemic. Some of the funded projects have end dates in the future. So the “prior” is also a lie. How do these people (the journalists) live with themselves?

“I represent science”. An extraordinary remark. Was it challenged by CBS? It isn’t in the Guardian. Perhaps we should say “Fauci falsely claimed to represent science”? Of course; a) no single person “represents science” even if science was a homogenous whole it belongs to many people, b) most science and especially epidemiology cannot be reduced to a ‘single truth’ – most science is in fact contested (a healthy process) and so no one can ‘represent’ ‘it’. Even the best scientists will often disagree on certain points. What Fauci does represent is his own bureaucracy. He is confusing science and public policy. This is precisely the point that Senator Rand Paul has been making; these are different matters (both at a theoretical level and at a practical). For example; it seems that in the US previous exposure to Covid is not considered an alternative to vaccination. Since natural exposure offers comparable immunity to a vaccine this is an unscientific position. It may arguably make some kind of sense from a Public Health perspective; but even so this is not ‘science’. Many countries do accept that natural infection ‘counts’ as being ‘vaccinated’ for Covid pass purposes. There is nothing ‘anti-science’ about making this argument; this is not sour grapes from Trump-aligned Republicans. It is a scientifically literate questioning of public policy; Rand Paul is fulfilling his democratic mandate in asking the questions he does. What we see in these comments is a planned and careful lie being deployed by Fauci to discredit his critics.

Fauci’s rather blatant attempt to make his failures a political partisan issue is surprising given he is supposed to be a non-partisan public official. But then he did – according to Trump – sit through many meetings on Covid with Trump and never once mentioned the lab…..

“They are lying”. Well – Fauci certainly knows how to take the fight to the enemy. But anyone who watched his lies around “not gain-of-function” fall apart under Senator Rand Paul’s questioning will know who is lying. Most telling was the moment when he said “We did not fund gain-of-function research” only to be forced to clarify that he did not think that ‘gain-of-function’ work includes animal viruses. [1] In this moment his supposedly solid ‘defence’ was exposed as the semantic games it is.

Dr Fauci is a serial liar. He may have direct responsibility for the pandemic. He is certainly doing his best to cover himself against that possibility while at the same time trying to play down the idea of a lab leak. A very dishonest position.

Update 30/11/21

This is Rand Paul discussing these comments: https://rumble.com/vpzoft-dr.-rand-paul-addresses-president-bidens-covid-hypocrisy-november-29-2021.html

Paul makes the point better than me. What Fauci ‘represents’ is Public Health. Public Health is public policy informed by some science. It is not the same as science.

Paul also makes the interesting point that the only things which work against Sars-Cov-2 are vaccines and natural immunity. The lockdowns and mask-wearing and all the rest of it haven’t substantially affected the trajectory of the pandemic. This is probably true. Paul is a qualified physician and he seems to have a better grasp of the science of this than Fauci.

(I advocated for a lockdown in the UK right at the start and it is clear that had that been done it would have slowed the pandemic in the UK. At any event the point of my posts at that time was they were doing nothing and there were steps they certainly could have taken – in line with WHO guidance, including testing. In fact of course they did worse than nothing; they dumped lots of Covid-infected patients in care homes killing 20,000 people wholly unnecessarily).

Notes

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pnb2Yxri6eY 2.02

The media panic about Omicron (and then pi?)

Slightly amusing that they’ve (the WHO) has skipped over naming it Xi.

The reality of the situation with Covid was brought home to me by these figures. Germany has 22,000 ICU beds. Currently 4000 of these are occupied by Covid patients. The state bureaucracy is screaming “emergency” and officials are agitating for more lock-downs. [1] Hang on. 22,000 ICU beds and 4,000 occupied by Covid patients? That doesn’t sound like the disaster which is being portrayed in the media. The reality appears to be (in Europe) that the driver for lockdowns and Covid passes (not to mention shooting people in Holland) is the desire of the state health bureaucracy to keep their hospitals in a pristine, as-normal, state. They are offloading the problems from the disease onto the population.

In the background note the change in messaging from state officials across Europe; “your path to freedom is getting vaccinated” has mutated into “we will need lockdowns, masks and social distancing as well as vaccinations to control this”.

The media acts as usual in cahoots with the state bureaucracy, in this case spreading the carefully calibrated messages of panic. Enough to ensure compliance with any rules and orders but not too much to cause social disorder.

My personal thoughts on this. If the question is:- would you rather a) live a life of permanent restrictions, where you can’t go to a café (I’ve been vaccinated but have, no doubt like many people, paperwork problems), travel to another country, go to a concert etc. and as a result stand a better chance of not dying from Covid or b) accept the risk and live a normal life – I would choose b). Especially when I consider that under the age of 70 the risk if I catch Covid is comparable to the risk from flu. [2] And while it rises after that [3] it is still a risk I’m prepared to take; I keep fit and will take vaccines which will substantially reduce the risk to a level I can accept.

There is a false dichotomy presented in the media who simply amplify the pronouncements and worldview of state bureaucrats. The endlessly repeated message is that the choice is between do nothing or state mandated restrictions. This is entirely false. The third alternative is based on scientifically literate individuals assessing risk, including to others, and taking responsible decisions. This alternative is suppressed because it does not involve the state. It is a choice at the level of civil society.

A question; why despite all this state organised and media mediated panic do we never hear the simple medical advice; by keeping fit and within the recommended weight for your age and height you can very significantly reduce your risk from Covid? This is a medical fact. Using the Economist’s [3] calculator which is based on US CDC data we see that for a 70 year old male with no medical conditions (other than perhaps being overweight) the risk of hospitalisation from Covid is 24.4%. Add in obesity and the figure is 35.6%. The data claims that obesity will not lead to higher mortality – just higher hospitalisation. It is a fact then that obese people are placing the health system under significant strain; due to their obesity they need oxygen support. (I would assume that these figures would be comparable in the UK). Being obese is not an unavoidable condition. If people would lose weight they could very significantly reduce their risk from Covid. I have never heard or seen this mentioned once in the media since the start of the pandemic despite having read countless articles about Covid, including countless pronouncements from highly paid state health bureaucrats. Yet here is something free and easy which would made a huge difference to the trajectory of the pandemic. Strange.

In response to Omicron governments are rushing in lockdowns and quarantines. The UK once again is behaving like King Cnut and trying to keep Omicron out by introducing mandatory PCR tests and isolation for all new arrivals together with Test and Trace. This is some idea dreamed up on paper by a state bureaucrat somewhere – presented to Ministers who, spineless careerists that they are, will do whatever the bureaucrats tell them for fear of making a mistake. It might work in a single theoretical location with a population of 10. It won’t work in the UK with tens (or hundreds?) of thousands coming in each day. It didn’t work for Delta. The futility of such a scheme is confirmed by a scholar from the respected John Hopkins Centre: “Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said travel bans were not an appropriate response. ‘First of all, we know that travel restrictions do very little to stop the spread of COVID-19,’ Adalja told Al Jazeera.” [4] And border controls are indeed as the South African Health Minister says [4] contrary to WHO recommendations. [5] All this is utterly shameless – because it is so pointless. Why does it happen? I think the central reason is that democratic governments always need to be seen to be doing something to justify their existence. The health bureaucrats also need to be seen to be doing something to keep their jobs. The media reports this performance and plays the role of compare or host. (Not the role they should play – of questioning what is going on). It is all an elaborate theatre driven by careerist self-interest, presented as responsible governance, played out to a docile audience who have little choice but to comply. Thoroughly dystopian.

What concerns me about the current wave of lockdowns is this; the logic is that if we need lockdowns now, when vaccination rates in Europe are high (68% in Germany), then we will need them forever. The virus is unlikely to simply go away. It is highly likely it will continue to mutate. It is likely that it will play a role in society like flu; as a carrier-off of the old and frail. Vaccines will help but not save everyone. At some point society has to make a choice; permanent lockdowns and travel restrictions and social distancing or accept that there is a new way of dying – to add to all the existing ways. And then just live our lives!

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/26/germany-at-crossroads-as-covid-cases-surge-across-europe
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3883/rr
  3. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/covid-pandemic-mortality-risk-estimator
  4. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/26/who-designates-new-covid-strain-omicron-variant-of-concern
  5. https://www.reuters.com/world/who-cautions-against-imposing-travel-restrictions-due-new-variant-2021-11-26/ (I can’t find the source I want. Possibly a victim of Google censorship. But it is in fact part of WHO standing policy to caution against travel restrictions as a response to pandemics).