Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Let's Have Some Compassion for Our Untouchables

If you grew up in a nation with a formal caste system, would you let society dictate how you treated others, especially the shunned and shamed untouchables? Would you deplore them based on what others told you to do, or would you have compassion for the downtrodden? If you grew up in the South after the civil war, when former slaves who had recently been freed found guns pointed at them if they attempted to vote and were not allowed to enjoy many of the blessings of the freedom they had supposedly gained, would you dare speak out for their rights? Would you treat them with compassion and kindness, or shun them as many did? If you were raised in Germany in the 1930s, would you look at Jews as the source of society's greatest problems, or would you have the wisdom and charity to ignore propaganda and social pressure and instead love others in spite of their differences? I believe most of us will sincerely think that in those settings, we would have been different from the sheep around us and would have the courage to stand up for the rights of others and respect them as fellow humans. However, in the rush of real events, when one senses the possibly high price of courage and feels the surging power of peer pressure and political force, we might fail to see that we were standing before a decisive opportunity to deploy our noble intentions and face the unknown consequences of defiance.

Power seekers throughout history have found scapegoats to be valuable tools for their own gain, and the Book of Mormon gives us several case studies to ponder as corrupt men used anger and blaming of others to obtain power, including Amalickiah, King Noah, and others. Stirring up senseless anger and fear has been a tool to justify expanded power and personal agendas time after time in world history. I feel that a new caste of deplorable untouchables is being created in our midst, the caste of the unvaccinated who are shamed and blamed for many social ills, and are being systemically punished and discriminated against. We are fortunately nowhere near to the level of persecution and abuse that many groups have faced throughout history, but the shaming, exclusion, and now firing of the unvaccinated is an alarming step. Though I am vaccinated and generally encourage vaccination and thus disagree with at least some of the unvaccinated, I feel we need to stand for their rights of medical privacy, of personal choice, and body sovereignty, especially in light of what "the science" is actually teaching us (see my Nov 21, 2021 update below for more details on this).

Unfortunately, many of us have been lied to about the alleged need to compel the untouchable caste to accept vaccinations. It's time to recognize the lies and stand up with compassion for others and respect for their rights, even if they are different in their views and choices. When you look at the stories you are not being told, it should also be clear that current government mandates and policies can no longer be assumed to be made in good faith. In fact, it's critical that you understand why. But first, please take a moment to consider the humanity of those being targeted.

Right after the announcement of the new federal vaccine mandate that puts the jobs of many Americans at risk, I had some surprising conversations with friends and relatives who fear its impact. One single mother who works from home and only from home for a healthcare-related company is being required to vaccinate. When President Biden gave his September speech that announced the plan for vaccine mandates, signalling a ramped-up divisiveness by telling the unvaccinated that "we are losing patience with you," her employer soon announced that she would need to be vaccinated or have weekly COVID testing. This mother with a very challenging life and overwhelming duties chose weekly testing, which involved having to drive one hour each week at her own expense to pick up a test kit. That was bad enough, but with the mandate now officially in place through OSHA, she has been told by her employer that now she must be vaccinated or be fired. She previously had a religious exemption, but now she is  told that that won't help any more. The language of the mandate appears to make exemptions possible and should not apply to those working remotely, but it seems that many companies are choosing to go the extra mile, perhaps to seem as faithful as possible in light of the fearsome penalties for non-compliance with the dictate. I guess they are just embracing the spirit of the law: expel the untouchables, even if they are among the heroes who have been risking their lives to help COVID patients, put out fires, stop criminals, or serve in many other urgently needed and understaffed areas that cannot afford losing large numbers of employees. To protect Americans, for our social good, we need to expel these people now or force them to buckle. The judicial stay issued a few days ago isn't making much of a difference, and the Biden Administration is essentially ignoring the court order, telling corporations to move ahead with compulsory vaccination.

In reality, her reason for not wanting the vaccine may be more based on personal medical reasons than her religious beliefs. She is highly allergic to many materials. The last time she had an injection, the adjuvants (compounds added with a medication to make it more effective or preserve it) gave her a severe reaction that took weeks to overcome. But she's had to change doctors and is not sure her current hard-to-reach doctor will support seeking a medical exemption. She'll try to get the exemption, but fears she will be fired. With the children she's caring for and the stress her life already has, the impact of the mandate seems rather cruel. Why cause her so much trouble and risk when she works from home and cannot possibly be putting others in the workplace at risk? It's senseless. Please understand, the logic behind this is not based on science, as we'll see, but pure politics. For this mother and for many thousands in similar situations, I hope you will recognize the unjust discrimination against her and feel a sense of compassion.

She and many others with concerns about the vaccine now have their jobs at risk. The reasons the vaccine hesitant have vary widely. For some, it's medical, such as concern about long-term adverse effects or allergic reactions, a concern shared by some college students I know. For others, it may be more religious, such as concerns about the essential role that fetal cells played in the development of a new drug or religious concerns about taking experimental materials into one's body as expressed by Victory Boyd, fired by the NFL after being hired to sing the National Anthem. Some object because of a distrust of government, a factor which I sense may be especially true among the many young black Americans who are vaccine hesitant (no, vaccine hesitancy is not unique to white Republicans). 

I'm currently reading  Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment by James H, Jone, 2nd ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993, first edition 1991), whose opening pages note the role the Center for Disease Control (yes, our beloved CDC) played after they were split off from the Public Health Service and took over running and justifying the horrific Tuskegee Experiment. Can we fairly blame the lack of trust in our government among many black Americans (or Americans of any color) who have heard about this decades-long experiment in which effective treatments for syphilis were deliberately and callously withheld from over 300 black men who thought they were getting treatment for their disease, all in an alleged "scientific" effort to watch the gruesome late stage effects of syphilis? 

If someone has personal reasons for not trusting government and especially the CDC, go ahead and post all the lectures to them that you want about how this time everything's totally transparent and truthful, but let's have some respect for the feelings and concerns of those who know something about the Tuskegee Experiment or have other reasons for doubting the often contradictory and sometimes clearly questionable official information they are given (e.g., see this frank op-ed from two medical scholars published at MSN.com or this observation with reasonable support from Chicago-based Wirepoints). Some of you have been telling my black friends that America is systemically racist, but now you're trying to tell them that they really need to trust the white folks running the CDC and the NIH and accept their "experimental drug" (as many see it and as it has been called from authoritative sources)? Can you have enough compassion to recognize that they might have genuine concerns? Do their feelings and even informed decisions not matter? If black lives matter, what about black sovereignty over one's body, black medical privacy, black personal choice, and black concerns about the overreach of an untrustworthy government?

I have several highly educated friends working for Silicon Valley giants. One of them who works from home now has his job at risk. The company, apparently showing its political faithfulness by going beyond the actual written requirements of the mandate, is requiring even remote employees to be vaccinated well before the mandate's requirement. As a matter of principle, my friend feels such a demand is not only contrary to logic and science, but is a violation of his personal privacy and, in my words, demeaning to him as an employee. He refuses to make his employment subject to accepting what could be an endless list of intrusions into his body as others declare what medications he must take. He works from home. His company knows he's vaccinated. But because he won't bow before an unconstitutional decree and disclose official proof of his medical status, his job is at risk. I applaud this man's courage. To even stand up and object politely was an act of amazing courage. I hope we can appreciate and sympathize with this kind of courage. It's a courage this country needs more than ever right now.

There seems to be fear that showing any kind of leniency toward the non-compliant could result in federal scrutiny with unbearable risk. This law, by the way, does not come from elected representatives in Congress as the Constitution seems to require, or, more properly, from elective representatives of the states since this should be a state or local issue, not a federal one. Rather, it comes from the decree dictated by one very powerful leader -- perhaps from President Biden himself, for all we know.

The Bad Faith and Lack of Science Behind the Mandate

We just had some of the most exciting news related to the COVID pandemic, the announcement of two different drugs that appear to have very high potential for treating COVID patients.  I am not talking about certain unmentionable, low-profit FDA-approved medications for other human diseases that some nations and some doctors in the US are using for COVID (sometimes prescribed in the US as well as "off-label" medications [but see my 11/19/21 update below if you are convinced that one such drug has strong studies supporting its use]). No, nothing that shady. I'm talking about nice, shiny new proprietary medications from two of the superstars of Big Pharma, Pfizer and Merck, so doctors won't be too afraid to prescribe these and pharmacies won't have to improperly practice medicine by declining to fill valid prescriptions for drugs the CDC doesn't like us to use. In short, the need for constant dread is about to wane, for not only are most Americans vaccinated with millions more having the still-ignored advantage of natural immunity, but now we are about to receive medications that can greatly reduce the harm of COVID. The latest news came within hours of the mandate as Pfizer reported its medication that can reduce the harm of COVID by 89% (see Bloomberg's Nov. 5, 2021 report and NPR's story). 

On top of this, we have already learned from the CDC that the vaccines don't stop transmission of the disease, for the vaccinated can still get the disease (though it's somewhat less likely than for the unvaccinated) and when they do, while the harm to them is reduced, they can still have the same viral load as others, making them able to transmit the disease to vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. The benefit of the vaccine is real, but it's personal: it reduces the harm to the individual. My body, my choice -- and I chose the vaccine. What right do I have to treat the unvaccinated as untouchables? [On the failure of the vaccines to significantly reduce transmission of the disease, see my Nov 21, 2021 update below and the excerpts from an important new study.] To the degree that the vaccine is effective, it protects the vaccinated, and if it's not really effective, why force others to take it? But the efficacy at the moment is not quite in the glowing 100% range we heard a few months ago. According to an Oct. 17 article from CNN which appears to accurately summarize some findings from a recent study, if you got Johnson and Johnson vaccine in February, the efficacy of your vaccination is now around 3%. It's higher for other vaccines, but the moral high ground for looking down on the unvaccinated seems to have eroded down to a small dirt clod for at least some of the vaccinated. But don't panic, there's that good news I mentioned about treatments for COVID.

Importantly, with effective drugs that can mitigate the harm of COVID, we can now expect a greatly reduced risk for vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. The vaccine still makes sense, but the mandate does not. We are not facing an existential threat that forces us to surrender individual rights. We do not need to create a new caste system to promote separation from and anger toward the deplorables among us who refuse to comply. Their body, their choice. If they are making a mistake in refusing the vaccine, the harm is theirs. If we who chose to be vaccinated end up facing some unexpected long-term ailments, the harm will be ours. Whichever of these two groups faces the greatest problems in the end, I hope all of us will be compassionate and help make sure that others are treated well. How appalling it is to see so many people online expressing glee when an untouchable passes away, or wishing COVID or worse upon others.

Meanwhile, as pressure against the alleged risk of the unvaccinated seems to be escalating, the government-allied media (GAM) seems to be working overtime to ignore, downplay, or suppress vital news about the scandalous crisis on our southern border, where hundreds of thousands of people have been encouraged to walk into the US without any requirement for vaccination and often without COVID testing, resulting in many thousands of COVID-positive people not just crossing the border but actively being flown to many cities around the country (see, for example, an Oct. 18 New York Post report). How is it that the same government that claims it just wants to save us from harm will force its citizens to be fired if they won't submit to a vaccine mandate, while not requiring the same of non-citizens who enter illegally? But if you get your news from CNN, for example, you won't hear much about the border crisis. (My search shows that "crisis" was last used to describe some challenges on the border on Sept. 20, and very little has been said about the obvious COVID risk. A Google search at CNN.com for "COVID border crisis" leads with a CNN "fact check" saying that there's no solid evidence that immigrants are causing COVID spikes and the real problem is unvaccinated citizens, not the immigrants, whose unvaccinated status is rarely mentioned.) But NBCNews.com did run a story in August noting that between 18%-25% of  immigrants tested were COVID positive. If the government is acting in good faith to protect us from a disease so dangerous that it requires spending away much of our future, giving politicians and unelected medical bureaucrats vast new powers, and taking away individual choice with intrusive mandates, why are tens of thousands of COVID-positive people entering our cities not a cause for urgent action that demands much higher priority? The neglect of the border utterly contradicts the claims used to justify the mandates. What we see at play here is something very ugly and political that further undermines trust in government. It's not about following the science.

If we need a mandate, perhaps what we need now is a mandate for compassion: 

  • compassion to rescue the many jobs at unnecessary risk, 
  • compassion for those who have genuine, unanswered questions about the long-term effects of the vaccines on cancer or reproductive health, areas where years more of study may be needed,
  • compassion for those who value their privacy, especially medical privacy (the language of the mandate raises some concerns about this), and don't want to trust their medical records with untrustworthy corporations,
  • compassion for those of any color worried about the apparent untrustworthiness of many parts of our government such as the history of medical abuse related to the Tuskegee Experiment, 
  • compassion for those who have sincere medical or scientific concerns about the vaccines,
  • compassion for those who don't want their employability to require subscribing to whatever medication or booster a central official decrees they must take, regardless of individual circumstances, and
  • compassion, not mocking, for those who value personal liberty.

Actually, we already do have a commandment that seems to sum all this up and is far more benign than any political mandate: "love one another." May we love one another, including the unvaccinated, and in compassion stand up for their rights, their jobs, and freedom of choice, even if we disagree with the choices they make. Ditto for those who are overweight, alcoholic, smokers, or engage in a variety of other risky lifestyle choices like, say, my personal vice of scuba diving (yes, I'm coming out!). We may disagree with the choices they have made, choices which can fill our hospitals and strain our medical system year after year, especially for those who have COVID, but let us not address the problem by requiring companies to fire the overweight or promoting coercion of any kind.

Lat's drop the mandate, stand in support for those it may harm, and choose instead the greatest commandment of all to address the core problems in this nation. Those problems, by the way, do not include inadequate autocratic power in the hands of a few. But failure to respect those with different views, needs, and choices is a problem we all need to work on. "Love one another" -- may this be our domestic and foreign policy, along with "teach correct principles, and let people govern themselves."

If divide and conquer is the stratagem here, after companies with more than 100 employees buckle and comply as the many millions of the rest of us sit back quietly, the next step could be a mandate for all other companies as well, and then will come vaccine mandates for the children, something already in the works in some regions. I know some good people who are anxious to have their children vaccinated, but I hope all of us can recognize the right of parents to say no, regardless of how safe and effective the vaccines may be. For those who are already or soon will be facing pressure to vaccinate your children, you may wish to read the Wall Street Journal's Nov. 9 op-ed, "Forced Covid Vaccination for Kids Is Unlawful" by Jenin Younes (free registration required). Whatever you choose, at least recognize that it is not irresponsible for parents to decline a vaccine for their children for which we don't yet have the many years of safety testing and experience that is typical of other vaccines. Let's stand with empathy for the rights of workers whose jobs are at risk and for the parents who will be pressured if not demonized for a reasonable decision. 


Update, Nov. 19, 2021: Above I referred to a medication that some doctors are prescribing for COVID as an off-label prescription (a common practice where a physician believes an existing FDA-approved medication may be useful for a patient if used in a non-standard way). The drug referred to, ivermectin, has been the subject of much controversy and bad science or bad faith on both sides of the debate. But based on the most comprehensive and clear-headed meta-analysis of nearly all of the studies involving its treatment of COVID, skepticism toward that drug appears justified after all, even though I was previously persuaded by some significant medical authorities and their analysis of many studies. It turns out that even after removing all the studies with obvious serious flows, there are studies that point to a definite positive effect. But new information suggests that this positive effect may be almost entirely explained by -- can you guess? -- worms! No kidding. Please see Scott Alexander's "Ivermectin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know," Astral Codex Ten, Nov. 16, 2021, https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/ivermectin-much-more-than-you-wanted. 

The higher-quality studies pointing to a positive effect of ivermectin comes from regions where people are more likely to be afflicted with parasitic worms, which make COVID even more damaging. The anti-parasitic benefits of the drug could handily explain the benefits. When worms are taken into account, ivermectin may no longer offer statistically significant improvements in patients. There's still more to study and learn here, but I think it's reasonable to conclude that the drug may not be the way to go, at least not by itself. The new therapeutics might be much better. 

It would have been great if our medical institutions had done the kind of clear thinking and explaining we see from Scott Alexander instead of mocking the use of the drug and threatening doctors who prescribed it, actions which only exacerbated mistrust (especially given that the studies as a whole seem to weigh in favor in a cheap drug -- until the parasitic effect is considered, which had not yet been done as far as I can tell).

Alexander's article also tries to explain the reasons why some of us are distrustful of the Medical Elite. His analogy to alien conquerors asking us to accept brain implants to spare us from an alien disease is quite funny and interesting, though it may miss the depth of intelligent reasons for such distrust. Would like to see a version of his analogy that incorporates a parallel to the border crisis, for example.

By the way, kudos to Geoff B. at Millennial Star for calling attention to the compelling scientific evidence for the benefit of natural immunity in "Lancet: natural immunity 'equal to' vaccination for COVID safety," Nov. 18, 2021. How can the attempted vaccine mandate completely ignore natural immunity and still be assumed by anyone to just "follow the science" and be in good faith? Something's fishy. Science is real, and so is natural immunity. 

As Geoff B. properly points out, the First Presidency statement of Aug. 12, 2021 considers natural immunity when it speaks of the importance of "immunizing a very high percentage of the population." Immunization is broader than vaccination alone and includes natural immunity. Further, the statement also shows good scientific knowledge in speaking of the personal  benefits of vaccination in reducing the severity of disease: "To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated." Well said. Let's be careful not to read that as an endorsement of vaccine mandates or the need to pressure people into vaccination to presumably stop the spread, which the vaccines don't seem to be doing well. But the personal benefit is clear. I add my voice in urging vaccination of adults (who don't have medical issues that might make vaccination problematic and who haven't already had COVID).

Update, Nov. 21, 2021: New Information on the Effect of the Vaccines on Transmission

As we watch strange trends across the globe, such as 100% Gibraltar having a spike in COVID cases or highly vaccinated states in the US sometimes having much more severe spikes in cases than less vaccinated states, many have begun to question the basic belief that vaccines surely must greatly reduce transmission of COVID. We've also had reports about CDC data showing that the vaccinated, when infected, can have the same viral load as the unvaccinated. That created a stir, though I'll admit I thought that something was wrong in the CDC study that it would give such an unexpected result, which seems to be contrary to what vaccines are supposed to do. But now a number of scientists are concluding that the vaccines, while effective in reducing personal harm, do not prevent the spread of the disease. 

A new study, S. V. Subramanian and Akhil Kumar, "Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States," European Journal of Epidemiology (Sept. 2021), https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-021-00808-7, examined 68 countries and 2,947 counties in the US and found that higher vaccination rates are not associated with fewer COVID cases. To me, this is a stunning reversal of "common knowledge" about what vaccines are supposed to do. Here are some of the findings of that study:

At the country-level, there appears to be no discernable relationship between percentage of population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases in the last 7 days (Fig. 1). In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people. Notably, Israel with over 60% of their population fully vaccinated had the highest COVID-19 cases per 1 million people in the last 7 days. The lack of a meaningful association between percentage population fully vaccinated and new COVID-19 cases is further exemplified, for instance, by comparison of Iceland and Portugal. Both countries have over 75% of their population fully vaccinated and have more COVID-19 cases per 1 million people than countries such as Vietnam and South Africa that have around 10% of their population fully vaccinated.

Across the US counties too, the median new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the last 7 days is largely similar across the categories of percent population fully vaccinated (Fig. 2). Notably there is also substantial county variation in new COVID-19 cases within categories of percentage population fully vaccinated. There also appears to be no significant signaling of COVID-19 cases decreasing with higher percentages of population fully vaccinated (Fig. 3).

Now there are many complex factors that could confound results and obscure a positive effect from the vaccines. But such a signal, if it exists, probably cannot be very strong to be so difficult to observe, and if not clear and strong, what is the social justification for vaccination? Please recognize that there is still  a strong reason for adults, especially those who are elderly or with compromised health, to be vaccinated, but the reason is personal, not social. If the vaccinated are roughly just as likely to spread the disease as the unvaccinated, or perhaps even marginally more likely as the data for countries might suggest (likely to be a random fluke in the data, IMHO), then there simply is not a valid reason to discriminate against the unvaccinated in any way, especially in light of the arrival of effective therapeutics for COVID.


 

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the vaccine mandate could also be challenged on the grounds that Biden is practicing medicine without a license.

Anonymous said...

The Biden approach may very well be an overreach. But, some of the claims here are either not completely accurate or misleading.

First, natural immunity, like vaccine immunity, fades. That is why boosters are important and why having an infection a year ago is not protection.

Second, no vaccine prevents all occurrences. The COVID vaccines roughly 90% prevent rate is typical for most vaccines.

Third, much of the fear people feel is because misleading voices, often — but not exclusively — on social media. Many of these so-called anti-vax experts distort for one primary reason: money. They seek eyeballs to line their own pocket or to sell goofy products that are ineffective or plain dangerous. That is why we have seen the silliness around ivermectin and previously hydroxychloroquine and so many nonsense claims.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon @7:35, it's true the antibodies can decline, but many people discussing this overlook the other important parts of the immune system, especially memory B cells and T cells. These can be much more long-lasting. The B cells can produce antibodies later when needed. See Ellie Dolgin, "COVID vaccine immunity is waning — how much does that matter?," Nature, Sept. 17, 2021.

The power of natural immunity, something that used to be common knowledge in science, is shown in the recent Israeli study of breakthrough infections in the vaccinated compared to those who had had COVID without vaccination. Natural immunity was many times more effective. See https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415" and https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415v1.full.pdf. More investigation is needed, but those who discount natural immunity and want to require vaccination for those who already had COVID might be following something other than science and logic, IMHO.

While natural immunity is probably much more effective than vaccination, it's better to get vaccination rather than risk the disease for those in vulnerable groups, but we need to recognize the value if not superiority of natural immunity. To neglect natural immunity in the new vaccine mandates contributes to the sense of some agenda other than just doing what's best for people. In fact, one of the legitimate concerns is the lack of data on what the vaccine does to those who have already had COVID, especially for children. Some experience indicates that there's an increased risk of some adverse reactions for those who already have antibodies.

Care to document your claims of a 90% rate of prevention for the vaccines with any data less than 5 or so months old? CNN just reported much lower rates.

Anonymous said...

Here is effectiveness data reported (updated this month) by Yale Medicine: Comparing the COVID-19 Vaccines: How Are They Different? Pfizer is 91.3% Moderna 90% Johnson & Johnson 72%

Natural immunity is effective. But, it fades over time as do vaccine protection. That is why booster shots exist.

Anonymous said...

Jeff you need to please stop commenting on things you're inexpert and untrained in. It's not your place. You're only adding noise to the confusion, and it's resulting in a rising death toll - especially in red states like Utah, where I presume most of your readership is based. Get your head out of the quagmire of obfuscation and half-truths. Please use this little platform to advocate for vaccination. If not, you're just as culpable.

BrianG said...

So many words and so many bad arguments. Sigh.

Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

The vaccine mandate is proof that we've become a soft totalitarian society -- something Rod Dreher has been writing about for years. Further proof are the comments posted here objecting to Jeff Lindsey's call for compassion. Little Eichmanns abound, most of whom lack the spine and courage to use their names.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:49 AM,

Just so you know, Utah ranks 49th out of the states in the USA in deaths per million. So, I suppose it is easy to see rising death rates in Utah when the death rates in Utah are currently so low.

Is this because Utah is a red state? Probably not. Lots of other factors play a part so it would be nice to see the partisan rhetoric toned down a bit and focus on the facts.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Hey Michael, go get vaxxed.

Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

I've been vaxxed since January. Why don't you get vaxxed against being a dick?

Jared* said...

First, let me state that there is nothing to envy in "natural immunity" because it is gained by recovery from infection, and infection is what we are trying to stop. And it's not like natural immunity has been suddenly rediscovered or something. A key question from the very beginning has been, how durable is immunity gained from infection?

But given that someone has recovered from COVID, why require vaccination?

1. How do you know that you have natural immunity? Unfortunately, there are no validated tests that can tell you whether your level of immunity is protective. Yes, there are antibody tests, but they are not quantitative and don't tell you anything about the quality of your immunity--just like the presence of soldiers does not tell you whether a territory is well defended.

2. Multiple studies show that people who recover from COVID get a significant antibody boost from a single dose of vaccine.

3. If your goal is to crush the virus, then you need as many people immune as possible. Since there are no validated tests to tell you who is immune and who isn't, you need to vaccinate as many people as possible.

I have plenty of compassion for people who are confused. I have less compassion for people who choose confusion. My indignation burns for the grifters who spread lies and confusion and reap reward at the expense of those who trust them.

Michael W. Towns, Sr. said...

"I have less compassion for people who choose confusion."

Let's unpack this. Essentially, what you're saying is that you have "less compassion" for people who make a different choice than you would make. That's exactly the point of Jeff's post. You lack compassion for people who want to exercise their agency in making their own personal medical decisions. And that's what Jeff's pointing out.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

I am boggled that vaccination has become such a redline. Historically disease presentation was the one thing where government could be very aggressive and the public assisted the effort.

George Washington required his troops to receive the equivalent of a smallpox vaccination. John Adam’s and Thomas Jefferson were inoculated. James Madison pushed legislation to spread vaccination. The Founding Fathers didn’t have the fear that tackling a disease was a massive intrusion on freedom.

A conservative U.S. Supreme Court, in 1905, backed a state government’s right to require vaccination.

It used to be (Utah, 1930s and 1940s) that if a family member had a contagious disease, the entire household was quarantined until a physician certified the household was disease free and it was a crime to leave the property until that condition.

Today, because of our political divisions and those who spread fear for money,

people act like it all about their personal freedom, rather than protecting the population as a whole. I think there is some merit to emphasizing the community over the individual in these circumstances.

Anonymous said...

“Disease prevention” not “disease presentation” above . .

Anonymous said...

My tablet freaked out:

Michael,

I am boggled that vaccination has become such a redline for so many. Historically disease prevention was the one thing where government could be very aggressive and the public supported and assisted the effort.

George Washington himself required his troops to receive the equivalent of a smallpox vaccination. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were both inoculated. James Madison pushed legislation to spread vaccination. The Founding Fathers didn’t have the fear that tackling a disease was some sort of massive intrusion on freedom.

Even a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, in 1905, backed a state government’s right to require vaccination, despite an individual’s personal opposition.

It used to be (Utah, 1930s and 1940s) that if a family member had a contagious disease, the entire household was quarantined until a physician certified the household was disease free. It was a crime to leave the property until that condition was met.

Today, because of our political divisions, inaccurate claims above vaccines and those who spread fear for money, far too many act like the primary value is their personal freedom, not protecting the citizenry as a whole. I think there is merit in emphasizing the community over the individual in these circumstances.

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, there are no validated tests that can tell you whether your level of immunity is protective"

Not so. See:

https://www.aditxt.com/immune-monitoring/

"If your goal is to crush the virus, then you need as many people immune as possible."

This is a ridiculous statement and a position that many people mistakenly believe. There is no way this virus is going away. We haven't eradicated the many other coronavirus strains already in existence. We must learn to live with the virus--we aren't going to "crush" it. It's a virus which has spread throughout the world and it's here to stay. It's going to do what it's going to do.

It's important that those who have comorbidities or who are elderly get and maintain their vaccinations, but we need to start treating this virus like we have treated the flu. Those who are otherwise healthy should have the option to vaccinate because, clearly, the vaccine isn't a panacea. We seem to forget that more than 99% of people who get this disease recover! I'm one of those.

Along with encouraging vaccines (not mandating), we should be using this opportunity to encourage weight loss and more cardiovascularly healthy living, as these two simple items are extremely helpful in dealing with the virus should you get it. A more reasoned approach to this whole issue is desperately needed. How long can we continue treating this disease like a 5 alarm fire?

Jared* said...

Not so. See:

https://www.aditxt.com/immune-monitoring/


Earlier this year FDA warned against interpreting antibody tests to indicate a specific level of immunity. I had in mind rapid antibody tests and was not aware of the Aditxt service, so thanks for bringing that to my attention. However, while I believe that it can provide meaningful information, it is not yet FDA approved and so I believe it would still fall under the FDA's warning. Moreover, while I was not able to find pricing information online, I doubt it is cheap. Nor does it appear ready to deploy on a mass scale, at least in the near future, as it is a laboratory service rather than a distributed product. Perhaps we will eventually reach a point where public health guidance incorporates such test results, which would be great, but we're not there yet.

This is a ridiculous statement and a position that many people mistakenly believe.

I think my statement of crushing the virus was mistakenly interpreted to mean eradicate. I agree that we are likely to never be fully free of the virus. Much depends on how adaptable it is in terms of variants that can escape prior immunity vs deployment of updated vaccines. It might also become more attenuated over time. Nevertheless, it is not ridiculous to believe that widespread immunity will help relegate the virus to a low-level annoyance in our society, and we seem to be making progress in that direction. Even if that's the best we can hope for, that's a win in my book.

Naismith said...

As for your friend working for a healthcare firm, I am astonished that Covid-19 is her first required immunization. Although I was not involved in direct patient care, I had to have a yearly flu shot and TB test (which involves an injection). Most preschool workers must have a measles titer and/or immunization. This seems like an extension of standard practice to me. And the flu shot is a different formulation (experimental?) every year.

Data suggest that vaccination does indeed affect transmission of disease within a population. See for example the Nov. 4, 2021 issue of JAMA, "Understanding Breakthrough Infections Following mRNA SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination," by Michael Klompas, who notes, "Viral loads in those who are vaccinated decline more rapidly, and the virus that they shed is less likely to be culture-positive than virus shed by unvaccinated individuals." He also cites contact tracing studies showing that newly diagnosed people are at least twice as likely to have been infected by an unvaccinated person. And there are studies that vaccinated people with a breakthrough infection are contagious for a shorter period of time than those unvaccinated.
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2786040

If you are opposed to vaccine mandates, then do NOT consider serving a senior mission. I needed a long list of immunizations. Typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis.... Is it wrong for our church to have such mandates, for those who choose to work (as volunteers) for them?

Anonymous said...

Please forgive me for not reading this post, Jeff. I have relatives who died in the Holocaust, and I found the first paragraph so repellent I refused to read on.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

@OK Jeff seems to have lost all sense of scope. It's rather disgusting what this blog has become.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Kudos to Geoff B. at Millennial Star for calling attention to the compelling scientific evidence for the benefit of natural immunity in "Lancet: natural immunity 'equal to' vaccination for COVID safety," Nov. 18, 2021. How can the attempted vaccine mandate completely ignore natural immunity and still be assumed by anyone to just "follow the science" and be in good faith? Something's fishy. Science is real, and so is natural immunity. There's no evidence that those with natural immunity have any need for vaccination.

As Geoff B. properly points out, the First Presidency statement of Aug. 12, 2021 considers natural immunity when it speaks of the importance of "immunizing a very high percentage of the population." Immunization is broader than vaccination alone and includes natural immunity. Further, the statement also shows good scientific knowledge in speaking of the personal benefits of vaccination in reducing the severity of disease: "To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated." Well said. Let's be careful not to read that as an endorsement of vaccine mandates or the need to pressure people into vaccination to presumably stop the spread, which the vaccines don't seem to be doing well. But the personal benefit is clear. I add my voice in urging vaccination of adults (who don't have medical issues that might make vaccination problematic and who haven't already had COVID).

Jeff Lindsay said...

OK, I am sorry my citation of past abuses to several major groups offended you. Certainly the hostility being shown to some by our government as it stirs people up against the non-compliant is nowhere near the level of persecution that humans are capable of. Just being ostracized and fired is far less than what has happened to many victims of power grabs by terrible people. But it's still a significant step in a bad direction. Bullying and hostility against a demonized group for political gain is a has often accompanied the thirst for power, and the long-term results are ugly. The time to speak out is not when the power grab has been accomplished, but in its early stages.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, your repellent opening paragraph did not "offend" me. Rather, it showed me that you have lost all sense of proportion and that you have no sense of history (e.g., there is no deep-seated, centuries-old animus against the unvaxxed that would make them the target of abuse comparable to the Holocaust, Jim Crow, etc.) -- in other words, that you have jumped the shark and are no longer worth reading.

-- OK

Jeff Lindsay said...

I made no such statement about the unvaxxed. It's a newly created group, obviously. But stirring up animosity toward a shunned group, whether newly or long hated, is an old political tactic. The target does not have to have been hated for centuries to serve as a useful and unjust target for power seekers. Even tiny new religious groups can be the subject of extermination orders or persecution by mobs who have "lost their patience" with someone different -- this still occurs to this day in some regions.

Many groups with religious, political, and ethnic differences are subject to government bullying across the world even if the particular breed of fear is a newly created one toward a newly classified or created group. We should recognize that and be willing to stand in support of their rights. But the unvaxxed do belong to a classical group marked for persecution: those who don't comply with the decrees of a powerful ruler.

Naismith said...

One thing about the groups who suffered past prejudice, though. They could not change the color of their skin, and persecutors often did not recognize religious conversion.

I don't think of unvaccinated people as a monolithic group, because there are so many different reasons for not having whatever vaccination. And I don't think of public health interventions as "prejudice" or "bullying." For decades, pregnant women after a certain date of gestation have not been able to fly an airplane or take a cruise. Is that bullying? Theme park rides routinely exclude people over a certain weight or under a specified height. Is that prejudice?

Naismith said...

Actually, there is a benefit of vaccination for individuals who have already had Covid-19. In the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 13, 2021, a study entitled "Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination — Kentucky, May–June 2021" found that, "Among previously infected Kentucky residents, those who were not vaccinated were more than twice as likely to be reinfected compared with those with full vaccination."

Such reinfection may be of concern to those of us who watched the nightmare in India earlier this year--so many of those who died there had previously been infected and assumed they were immune.

All of the European countries I visited this year accepted a doctor's certificate of recovery from Covid in lieu of vaccination, although the acceptable time period after infection recovery varied (180 days was common).

I think one reason that the USA is leery about efficacy of immunity from infection is our experiment with convalescent plasma last year. Some Covid patients were likely helped, but along the way it was learned that various levels of antibodies result after illness. In my community, plasma donations became restricted only to those who were hospitalized for Covid, because they would have the most immunity to pass on. Are people who had only asymptomatic infection sufficiently immune?

GaelicVigil said...

Today Utah's recovery rate from Covid is 99.94%. Google "Utah covid deaths cases" for yourself. The average age of death of Covid in the US is 79 years old. That is on the CDC's website.
There is nothing extraordinary about Covid. Small Pox killed 1 in 3. Stop equating this with Small Pox or Polio or any other diseases which were actually dangerous.
There is no need whatsoever to get a shot (not a vaccine), especially not from drug dealers who were convicted on the largest criminal frauds in US history.
The shot causes Myocarditis and Pericarditis, it's happening all over the world. This is the most dangerous shot in history. A BYU basketball Center is out for the season from heart problems following the shot. His mother is furious and BYU and the DesNews is covering it up.
Trust in the Priesthood, take chicken soup, get rest. STOP LIVING IN FEAR.

GaelicVigil said...

@Anon 12:19

These are not anecdotes, the recovery numbers are real. Look it up on the CDC's website. The average age of death from Covid in the US is 79 years old, the same age as the average life expectancy. The people are dying are almost exclusively those who would have died soon anyway from other causes.
The Myocarditis and Pericarditis as well as the spike proteins causing blood clots is real.
The American Heart Association just proved it:
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circ.144.suppl_1.10712

As for anecdotes, my parents just got Covid last week after they had the shot. They had severe symptoms too. The shot does not protect you. Also my cousin lost half his body's use after getting a stroke a week after getting the shot.
These things are very dangerous.

I forgive you for your angry words against me.

The story of the brass serpent is a symbol of looking to Jesus Christ. Only Christ can heal your body and mind from this situation. Have Faith in His power, use the Priesthood.
Do not put your Faith in the arm of the flesh. In the last days, even the very elect will be deceived. Study Doctrine & Covenants 45, 101, & Joseph Smith Matthew. Who does the Lord mean by His Watchmen, His House, and His Servants?

Anonymous said...

How very self-righteous of you to assume that I would ever want or seek your forgiveness.