What About Delta?
The Delta variant is now the most common form of Covid across the world. As we see from the CDC chart above, it dominates all other variants in the US, and became dominant in late June. The UK and Israel have encountered the Delta form earlier, and have compiled good statistics on it. In all countries, Delta infections have been growing rapidly, including in fully vaccinated individuals. In some countries, the majority of new Delta cases are in fully vaccinated people. When an infection occurs in a vaccinated person, it is called a “breakthrough” case. In other words, the virus has “broken through” the protection offered by the vaccine.
An article in Financial Times cited a study from Israel where the Pfizer vaccine was only 39% effective against Delta, and fell to 16% for those who had received early vaccinations in January. A recent study from India showed that the Delta variant was significantly less responsive to vaccine initiated neutralizing antibodies than the previous Alpha variant. Other peer-reviewed studies here and here show that Delta is much less sensitive to vaccine induced antibodies than the original Alpha form. Rather alarmingly, a very recent study from Japan suggests that further mutations of the Delta variant may become fully resistant to vaccines.
The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, a world recognized medical institution, conducted a study of vaccine effectiveness among its patients. They found that up until July, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines had about 90% effectiveness, but that in July when the Delta variant dominated, the Pfizer vaccine effectiveness dropped to 40%
while the Moderna vaccine was about 76%
What this means is that the vaccines are considerably less effective against the Delta variant than they were against the original Alpha variant, and that new variants are likely to become even less effective. This is borne out by both clinical studies as well as laboratory investigations. Further, breakthrough cases where “fully vaccinated” people contract Covid are increasing and often exceed cases in unvaccinated populations. The current push to vaccinate everyone, even to the point of forcing vaccination on the unwilling is unlikely to provide any benefit to anyone besides authoritarians. New strains of Covid are likely to become even more resistant to vaccines on a timescale of a few months so that even “booster” vaccinations will become less effective.
Pregnant women were specifically excluded from the Pfizer clinical trials. Additionally, contraceptive measures were required for trial participants to prevent pregnancy during the trial period. Despite these prohibitions, the CDC is now recommending that vaccination is safe for pregnant women. This recommendation is based on a seriously flawed study that showed that women vaccinated after the first half of the first trimester had few adverse effects. This is to be contrasted against another study showing that women vaccinated prior to pregnancy or early in pregnancy had a miscarriage rate up to 82% in the first trimester.
In any case, few pregnancies have come to term since vaccinations were started, so there is virtually no information available on what the effects of vaccination might be on infants born to vaccinated mothers.
The CDC just came out with statistics on Covid infections and deaths in children. As of September 8, there were 412 children in the age range of 0-17 years who were reported as having died from Covid. In that same age range, 55,352 children died from all causes. There are about 74 million children total in this age range.
Yes, children can get Covid. For most children, though, symptoms are no worse than the common cold, and are often confused with cold symptoms. Most children have very robust immune systems, and while parents are often concerned whenever a child contracts an illness, the risk of Covid to most children is negligible. As can be seen by the statistics above, a child is over 100 times more likely to die from something else, such as an auto accident on the way to or from school, than they are from Covid.
A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated
Recently, those people who have declined vaccination have been subject to a scapegoating program where it is claimed that Covid is spreading because they form a reservoir of infection that is even infecting those previously vaccinated. There has even been serious discussion of forced vaccination to eliminate this alleged pool. An interesting analysis comparing infections in Israel and Palestine suggests that the situation may be just the opposite. The two populations are similar in size and other demographic factors, but Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, while Palestine has one of the lowest. On August 10th, Israel, with just less than twice the population of the Palestinians reported almost 23 times more cases and 6 times more deaths. If it were really the unvaccinated who are spreading Covid, the numbers should be reversed.
In addition, there are now studies showing that for vaccinated people with Delta infections, they have higher virus loads and are shedding more virus into the environment than unvaccinated cases.
Interesting Side Note
There is one positive aspect of vaccines that seems consistent in that they tend to reduce the severity of symptoms. This is somewhat difficult to quantify, however. With unvaccinated people, as many as about 65% will exhibit symptoms of an infection, and will have an untreated survival rate of around 99+%. On the other hand, only about 73% of the vaccinated population will experience symptoms, and will have an untreated survival rate of over 99+%.
While this paragraph above sounds a bit flippant, it does highlight one of the biggest problems in trying to evaluate vaccines and treatments where natural recovery rates are very high, and actual negative outcomes are a tiny fraction of observed cases. The results are subject to numerous statistical effects that have little or nothing to do with the actual disease, and can lead to errors in conclusions.
Putting it another way, at any given time an individual will have about a 7% chance of testing positive for Covid. So the odds of testing clean are over 10 to 1. If the test is positive, out of 1000 unvaccinated people who test positive, 995 will recover with few or no symptoms, even without treatment. With treatment, three or more of the remaining five will recover. Over 350 of the 995 will have no noticeable symptoms.
On the other hand, for those who are vaccinated, out of 1000 confirmed cases, 997 or more can be expected to recover fully. Of the remaining three, two can be expected to recover given treatment. Of the 997 cases, 270 will have no noticeable symptoms.
Editor’s Note: Don’t miss the conclusion of this 3-part series, coming tomorrow at The Blue State Conservative.
By David Robb
David Robb is regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative and a practicing scientist who has been working in industry for over 50 years. One of his specialties is asking awkward questions. A large part of his work over the years has involved making complex scientific issues clear and understandable to non-specialists. Sometimes he even succeeds.