The Cowardice of Covid-19 Herd Immunity Without a Vaccine
Posted on August 17, 2020
They just won’t go away. The Covid-19 hoaxers. The anti-mask libertarians. The conspiracy theorists. Then there’s the media pragmatists who take a salary to promote the policy of letting Covid-19 take a Darwinian path through society.
In epidemiology, the profession of disease incidence, transmission and control, they call this theory “Herd Immunity”.
Adherents believe that the eradication of Covid-19 is impossible, therefore the world must simply live with it and let nature do the rest. Note that phrase, “live with it”—what an unfortunate term. Covid-19 killed 25 Victorians today.
Way back on the 27th of March I wrote about herd immunity versus lockdown as it applied to the Covid-19 pandemic then unfolding across the globe, and I framed the debate as a one of economics versus life. You can find that article here: The Economy or Lives the Choices of Fighting Covid-19
Herd immunity is a valid tool in the fight against any highly contagious virus so long as it attaches to one caveat that media pundits deliberately don’t mention.
Herd immunity is best achieved through immunisation. When we vaccinate a population, the virus having little or no host to go to effectively dies.
This type of Herd immunity is called “Eradication” and Planet Earth achieved it with Smallpox.
While writing the article mentioned above, one media empire began pushing “Herd immunity Without Vaccination”. It was no coincidence that simultaneously, its biggest client—the US Trump Administration—began sprucing the lines that Covid-19 was “the flu”—that it would “disappear”—that it would “melt away” in the summer heat—and that hardly anyone had it.
That media empire, of course, was Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Last week it lost USD $1.5 billion dollars, a brilliant feat for an Australian cable TV monopoly.
This is why we’re still hearing media outlets directly owned or propped up by News Corp, such as Fox News and Australia’s Sky News, parroting the same herd immunity line. This phenomenon is explained by four things:
- Herd Immunity without a vaccine apparently is good for business.
- Herd immunity without a vaccine apparently buoys a conservative voting base.
- Herd Immunity without a vaccine apparently helps News Corp sell ads to this conservative voting base.
- Herd immunity without a vaccine apparently draws attention away from the mistakes News Corp’s conservative governments have made dealing with Covid-19.
But the thing that’s wrong with media personalities pushing herd immunity without a vaccine in this way, is that they are cowards. For how many of these journalists, anchors and opinionators have actually caught and survived Covid-19 and told their stories? We’ll come back to that.
Today, I was told of one such opinionator, who on Sky News Australia this past weekend, tried to push home his point with the following monologue. He began with what his producers must have thought was a brilliant coup de main—a surprise attack:
Two words (he held up two fingers) that should put the fear of God into every politician in this country … Two words that are also European countries. Sweden and Switzerland.
Ah, he glued us right there with the old lexical debate, is a name a word? Well, Swedish is definitely a word and Swiss banks are still hoarding Nazi loot, but he then continued on with a paraphrasing of Sweden’s former state epidemiologist, who once said on his program:
You could not eradicate the coronavirus you could only slow it down … a major lockdown … would simply lead to the population without herd immunity … and in the process completely destroy the economy.
He also made sure to let us know that this person was the mentor of Sweden’s current state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell.
To prove his point, he then quoted an editorial in the UK’s The Telegraph praising Dr. Tegnell’s Swedish herd immunity without a vaccine policy, for it had caused:
Far fewer deaths per capita than Britain; a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our [the UK’s] own.
Indeed, let infection reign for freedom and money. Thank God for the pharmaceutical lobby and its private investors who are now on an all-out mission to eradicate Covid-19 through a vaccine, because they want money too.
You see, what this Sky News host forgot to do, was actually quote Anders Tegnell himself.
Not to worry, thankfully on August 9, The Guardian did this for us. When asked whether herd immunity had worked in Sweden, here’s what The Guardian and Dr. Tegnell said:
While Sweden’s steady-as-you-go strategy is starting to look more sensible as Denmark, Norway and Finland see a resurgence in cases, Tegnell said he now doubted if there would ever be a definitive answer over which strategy was best. ‘It will be very difficult to to achieve any kind of really clear-cut answer as to what was right and what was wrong,’ he said. ‘I think we’re talking years into the future before we can get any kind of consensus on how to deal with this in the best possible way’.
And that’s when I turned that Sky News segment off, because as it turned out Switzerland was brought up for its apparent love of Hydroxychloroquine. Thing is, health authorities around the world—including Australia’s own Doherty Institute recently commissioned to trial the drug—have warned, that not only does Hydroxychloroquine not do anything for Covid-19: at the wrong dosage it can cause heart attacks and blindness. But that’s just a conspiracy, right?
Which is where we come to cowardice. It’s cowardice if you call for a herd without volunteering to become part of it yourself.
Where’s the News Corp directive asking all executives and personalities to infect themselves with Covid-19 for the good of the herd? To take that virus into their homes and infect their spouses, children, babies, extended families, friends and associates?
Why are none of them volunteering for this duty to the economy, liberty and advertising?
Because they know that Covid-19 brings with it unbelievable agony, hospitalisation, morbid after-effects—and death. It’s the same cowardice it takes terrorists to strap suicide bombs on others while recruiting fresh suckers as those bombs explode.
There is no living with Covid-19. There are no safe open international borders with Covid-19. Thank God there’s no old economy with Covid-19 because the pre and post-GFC were cash cows for only the few.
No, there remains one strategy for Covid-19 and it comprises two parts: suppression through lockdown and eradication through vaccine.
Screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin made it abundantly clear why, when exploring the possible resurgence of Smallpox as a terror weapon, in the first season of his brilliant The West Wing:
If 100 people in New York City got it, you’d have to encircle them with 100 million vaccinated people to contain it.
That’s why herd immunity—without a vaccine has never been plausible. Australia has a population of 27 million. We know the percentage of those infected with Covid-19 who will end up in hospital—and we know that with the disease’s current Australian R0 or Reproduction Number of R1-2 hospitalisations will multiply until we run out of staff to care for them.
No, not even Sweden’s Anders Tegnell can say whether herd immunity without a vaccine works.
Sweden does, however, today have 5,783 Covid-dead from a population of 10.2 million. Victoria, Australia, has a population of 6.5 million. It now has 309 Covid-dead.
Hey, go to Trump’s America, home of News Corp and Fox News. They’re as close to a herd as you can get and they’ve just broken 170,000 dead but it seems they don’t want people mailing home about it.
Update August 19, 2020—Australia Adopts a Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy
As if this article predicted fate, late last night, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the signing of a deal in principle to buy the UK’s “Oxford Vaccine” for production in Australia, in a joint effort between CSL and AstraZeneca.
This vaccine still needs to pass Stage 3 testing. The good news, is that this process is now in its end game.
Speaking just now, the prime minister noted that while other vaccine candidates exist that may be bought too—or instead—a clear decision has been made. To summarise:
Australia’s Covid-19 policy is now one of Herd Immunity WITH a Vaccine.
And that will require a “95% uptake” once the vaccine hits the Australian market.
I’ll be writing more about this in the weeks ahead. The concept of vaccinating against a massively contagious virus, currently pandemic, is not as simple as taking a flu shot: to say that the variables and tactics involved will be unique, is an understatement.
© 2020 Adam Parker.
Link to the The Guardian article: Sweden’s Covid Expert Warns UK