Flat White

Vaccination certificates: an idea whose time must never come

13 August 2021

12:16 PM

13 August 2021

12:16 PM

Chris Richardson of Deloitte Access Economics wrote in the Australian Financial Review on 10 August: ‘Delta is so infectious that the vaccination rates we need are at least as high as those already achieved by the likes of Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel and Italy. He argued that timidity is proving costly and will end badly. Instead, the government needs to bite the bullet, make vaccination certificates mandatory for all wishing to return to active life in society and the economy, and shield businesses imposing no jab, no job policies with a firm legislative framework.  

On 9 August, the spread of fully vaccinated was from 55.7% (Italy), 58.3% (UK), Canada (62.2%) to 62.4% (Israel). The Covid-19 daily new infections and deaths per million people for these countries on that date was: Canada (40/0.27), UK (407/1.32), Israel (442/1.19), Italy (99/0.36) (Figures 1-3).) 

Let’s look at some selected countries in a bit more detail. Iceland is currently 75% fully vaccinated. Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says vaccination has not led to the herd immunity that experts hoped for. In recent weeks, as the Delta variant outstripped all others in Iceland, it became clear that vaccinated people can easily contract it as well as spread it to others. He said in a briefing on 3 August: ‘the Covid-19 pandemic is not close to being over and will not be over until it’s over everywhere’. On 8 August, he conceded the goal cannot be to eradicate the virus from the community. Instead, he now believes it is necessary to try to achieve herd immunity by allowing the virus to spread throughout the community, but to try to prevent serious illness by protecting vulnerable groups (Google translation).  Looking at Iceland (75% vaccinated) and Australia (18% vaccinated) together (Figure 4), why would we think vaccination is our golden key out of the Covid nightmare?

The waning efficacy of vaccines is also seen in Israel, including some who have been thrice-jabbed. In a locality in Jerusalem where only 42.9% of the population has been fully vaccinated, 85-90% of all hospitalised patients were fully vaccinated. According to a report in Arutz Sheva on 13 July citing health ministry data, only 72 of the 835,792  (0.0086%) Covid-recovered Israelis had been reinfected, compared to over 3,000 of the 5,193,499 vaccinated Israelis (0.0578%). Referencing these statistics, Martin Kulldorff from Harvard Medical School tweeted: ‘Vaccinated people were 6.72 times more likely to get infected than those with natural immunity from prior’ Covid disease. And Dr Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins University declared: ‘The pandemic of the unvaccinated is a misnomer. It’s a pandemic of the non-immune’.

For perspective, let’s add Sweden to the mix with 44% fully vaccinated, 64 cases per million and 0.03 deaths per million people. In other words, with a significantly lower vaccination rate, and without lockdowns and mask mandates, Sweden’s mortality toll from Covid is hugely lower than the other four in Figure 3. Let’s not forget either that compared to Sweden, Australia has the great advantages of being an isolated island country that can close off its international borders efficiently, as well as enviable advantages of climate.

In other words if we ignore models – and I wish we had done so from the very beginning, they’ve proven so thoroughly unreliable and dangerous in their impacts – the recommendation for vaccination certificates flies in the face of massive actual data from the real world. This is even without bringing up the case of India itself where this damn Delta variant first made its appearance at scale and accounted for over 50% of all infections by mid-April, around 80% on 8 May, over 90% since about 20 May and currently at 98.8%. India’s steep infections curve crossed 50,000 daily new cases on 26 March with 0.6% fully vaccinated, peaked on 8 May with 391,000 cases (283 per million) with a mere 2.5% of people fully vaccinated, came down to 50,000 on 26 June with only 4% full vaccination,  and has stayed below that threshold (which works out at 36 per million people) since then. Even now, just over 8% of Indians are fully vaccinated.

On 30 July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Delta variant was showing similarly high viral loads among unvaccinated and vaccinated cases. This suggests ‘an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus’. A similar conclusion was reached by Public Health England on 6 August: ‘levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people. This may have implications for people’s infectiousness, whether they have been vaccinated or not’, meaning that vaccines will not suppress the virus spread as much as had been hoped.

In the UK, the Delta variant accounts for 99% of all Covid hospitalisations. Of these, 34.9% were fully vaccinated and 55.1% had received at least one dose. Public Health England’s Technical Briefing 20 in early August showed that while vaccination does reduce mortality in the over-50s by more than threefold, for those under 50, the fatality rate among the vaccinated is 57% greater than in the unvaccinated. On 10 August, a panel of experts, including most importantly the head of the Oxford vaccine team, called for an end to mass testing in Britain because the Delta variant has destroyed any chance of herd immunity through vaccination. The scientists believe it’s time to accept there’s no way of stopping the virus spreading through the entire population and monitoring people with mild symptoms is no longer helpful.

Confirming that history does irony, this development came on the same day that the Australian Parliament condemned George Christensen MP for conveying pretty much the same message: ‘Covid-19 is going to be with us forever, just like the flu and just like the flu, we will have to live with it, not in constant fear of it’. PM Scott Morrison and Coalition MPs voted in support of the Labor censure motion, simply ignoring the substantial scientific literature to support Christensen’s assertions on the questionable efficacy and collateral harms of masks and lockdowns.

In other words, having tried lockdowns and vaccinations, some of the most highly vaccinated countries are coming round to the view of the Great Barrington Declaration of October 2020 – which itself was a restatement of the official WHO position of October 2019 – of focussing protection efforts on the most vulnerable. The Declaration has been signed by 58,000 medical practitioners and health scientists. Maybe instead of targeting Christensen, our media, public health experts and political leaders should rethink their entire approach? Because vaccinations do not prevent infection or transmission, they cannot stop the spread of the virus. Because they do reduce the severity of the illness and mortality rates, they remain important. Putting the two together, vaccines should be made available to all, strongly recommended for all vulnerable groups but not made mandatory for anyone. Embrace personal choice and individual responsibility as the core elements of Covid risk management as we all learn to live with it as individuals and a nation. This too shall pass.

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