The other story in the news this week is the advancements in vaccines. In the corridors of the White House, in Japan’s Olympic Village, and on the pages of every newspaper, there have been stories of people testing positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Combined with (deservedly) dire warnings about the effects of the delta variant, and a shift in some right-wing media to “look, vaccines aren’t working,” it would be easy to assume that vaccine advances are to blame for some. significant part of the rising tide.
They are not. As everyone from Anthony Fauci to President Joe Biden has made clear, what we are seeing now is an unvaccinated pandemic. Breakthrough cases, as they happen, are just a glimpse in the big picture.
There are two graphs showing the changing nature of the unvaccinated (PU) pandemic against plain old P. The first is a chart of new cases each day as reported by the Centers for Disease Control.
The second is a chart of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States, also from the CDC.
This second graph shows a rebound over the last week, and deaths always necessarily follow new cases. But the increase in deaths is lower and more lagging than in previous waves of cases. For example, in November, when cases increased 68% in the first two weeks of the month, deaths increased by a nearly identical percentage. But in July, with cases topping 250%, deaths were up 30%. Losing more than 250 Americans a day to COVID-19 is certainly nothing to brag about. However, this is a reflection of how 80% of Americans over 65 are vaccinated, taking disease away from those most vulnerable to serious illness. The delta variant appears to be more virulent when it comes to children and young adults compared to previous iterations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but not enough to make up for the difference obtained by removing the older population from the table.
What is happening in the UK is an even more dramatic demonstration of this effect. Despite the tremendous increase in new cases, the increase in deaths has been much less.
So 97% of new hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated. And 99.5% of deaths occur among the unvaccinated. But thankfully, so far at least, those deaths are nowhere near the levels seen when COVID-19 had the entire population. That dramatic graphic in the UK comes despite the most common vaccine being the AstraZeneca / Oxford version, which is believed to be less effective than Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna.
What The Washington Post He points out, the rate of new cases in states like Missouri is actually as high as it was in the January peak … except those vaccinated aren’t participating. That rate continues to rise. The unvaccinated are not only contracting COVID-19 as easily as they did in January, as the delta variant now accounts for 83% of all cases, but they are catching it faster. As the Mail reports: “The covid-19 free summer in the country is turning wild for the half of the nation that is not yet fully vaccinated.”
Applying that same adjustment to the nation, the rate of new COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated people is already at “rising” levels and continuing to rise. “The nationally adjusted hospitalization rate has risen to a point last seen in April, and the death rate is comparable to the unadjusted figures for May.”
When the numbers show more than 6,000 major cases that have been hospitalized, it seems like a lot. But what it means is that half of the population, including 80% of the most vulnerable population, contributed only 3%. Rupture cases are very rare. And when those cases occur, multiple studies have shown that vaccinated people carry a lower viral load in their nostrils than unvaccinated people. It is not a guarantee, but it is a good indicator that the vaccinated are much less likely to transmit the disease, whether to the vaccinated or not vaccinated.
Here’s another look at UK data comparing this huge new wave of cases to the nation’s previous high, this time broken down by age range.
That is incredible. That is great. This is exactly what the good news about vaccines should look like.
Now we just have to harass, cajole, threaten or shame the other half of the population to get vaccinated. Because while the number of deaths could have decreased:
- Both the US and the UK are experiencing huge healthcare costs due to this new wave of diseases.
- The long-term effects of COVID-19 remain unknown, but it is already clear that many people will have persistent disabilities that could last for years.
- The longer we continue to have high levels of cases, the greater the chances of new and more evasive variants.
- Kids can’t get vaccinated and kids don’t deserve to get sick just because adults are assholes.
And remember: support the export of existing vaccine stocks, as well as the relaxation of intellectual property laws around these vaccines. We can’t stop this in the United States unless we stop it around the world.