Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s plan to treat the coronavirus as endemic is the way out of the COVID-19 crisis. That he has adopted provincial restrictions for the fourth time doesn’t negate the endemic approach.
But his declaration that we have “a crisis of the unvaccinated” offers no solution. The newest health impositions reveal a vaccine that doesn’t act like a traditional vaccine. Old vaccines provided individual immunity and a barrier against the spread of infection. The COVID shots do neither all that well.
The COVID shots are no infection barrier, especially among the elderly, because the immunity resulting from the shots isn’t lasting as long as initially thought.
At first, the number of people sick with COVID in long-term care homes dropped dramatically after they were immunized. However, Alberta government statistics show that comorbidities are a better predictor of infection than the absence of vaccination.
For all its risks and failures, the COVID shot lowers the rate at which the infected end up in hospital or succumb to the illness. This is certainly good. But we should come clean on the infection results among the older cohorts, even those with no comorbidities.
Medical bureaucrats, media and governments have made the pandemic out to be all about case numbers, and, in this sense, we continue to fail our elderly, despite the rhetoric about vaccination. Not surprisingly, instead of immunization or the risks, the debate has moved to how vaccines help avoid the harsher reactions to the virus.
If everyone were vaccinated tomorrow, it’s clear from existing data that the spread of infection wouldn’t stop. Those vaccinated still contract and spread the infection at a rate of 30 to 50 percent. Data from Israel show, and manufacturers admit, that the efficacy of the COVID shot declines within months and the limited protection it offers may not last past six months.
Booster shots, we now hear, are the immediate and longer-term solution. But the rush impulse to give everyone boosters, already being indulged in the United States, brings us to significant ethical and practical problems.
In ethical terms, rich countries offering boosters further delay the first shot for half the planet’s population.
On the practical side, more variants will arise in a world where half the population hasn’t been vaccinated and in which a quarter to half the vaccinated can transmit infection. The catalogue already includes many mutations of SARS-CoV-2, and there will be more.
So far, only eight variants cause COVID-19 infections; the rest aren’t affecting people. However, as the Brazil and Delta variants have shown, populous countries like Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan might be ripe for generating more variants of concern.
Variants of concern have great potential to find their way to Canada, challenging the efficacy of the shots and producing waves of new cases among vaccinated and unvaccinated. Given the speed at which medical bureaucrats make politicians panic and at which healthcare systems are brought to the brink of collapse, new infection waves will push toward the only alternative leaders know: restrictions and lockdowns.
We need a better exit strategy than just relying on the limited ability of the vaccine. Failure to devise and implement such a strategy will condemn us to live in a repeating cycle of clamping and reopening. It will continue to:
- weaken economies;
- increase anxieties, family violence and mental health disorders;
- augment unemployment;
- keep deaths by overdose at high rates;
- continue school closures, bankruptcies, restrictions on elective and not-so-elective procedures for chronic and other diseases;
- and maintain the focus of fear on COVID-19 that has caused more deaths than the virus.
Adding to this are those who continue to dream of and push for a global eradication of SARS-CoV-2. They drive the policies that subject us to lockdown cycles. They are far more dangerous than the virus itself.
Marco Navarro-Genie is president of the Haultain Research Institute and senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He is co-author, with Barry Cooper, of COVID-19: The Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2020).
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